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Medieval Studies Program presents

Medieval Vernacular Literary Theory

The Ethics of Form

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eleanor Johnson
Assistant Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University

“Medieval Vernacular Literary Theory: the Ethics of Form” explores the impact of Boethius' “prosimetric practice,” and his theory of how it works on his readers ethically, as a test case for thinking through what it would mean to study a literary theory-in-practice that emerges in late medieval English literature. This talk will analyze how and why Boethius writes his Consolation of Philosophy in prosimetrum, and will then examine the consequences of that choice in some of the experimental poetry of the late fourteenth century, including that of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Eleanor Johnson specializes in late medieval English prose and poetry, medieval poetics and philosophy, law and literature in the Middle Ages, early autobiography, and vernacular theology.  Her first book, Practicing Literary Theory in the Late Middle Ages: The Ethics of Form in Chaucer, Gower, Usk, and Hoccleve, is forthcoming in the spring of 2013 from University of Chicago Press.  She is currently working on a new book about the aesthetics of contemplation in late Middle English mysticism and drama. Her recent essay publications include an article on time and affect in The Cloud of Unknowing  (the Journal for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 2011), "The Poetics of Waste" (PMLA, 2012), an essay on trespass and contract law in Troilus and Criseyde in the New Chaucer Handbook (Oxford UP, 2013), and a new edition and facing-page translation of the fourteenth-century poem Wynnere and Wastoure (Broadview Press, 2012). Two collections of her poetry, The Dwell (Scrambler Books) and Her Many Feathered Bones (Achiote Press) were published in 2009 and 2010. 


For more information, call 845-758-4615, or e-mail mlibbon@bard.edu.

Location: Olin, Room 205