Sunday, September 28, 2014

Writing in Good Company

Le Lunch
There's been a lot of writing lately, all in the name of a proposal, which is a particular kind of writing filled with hope and itchy dread and ambition and self-doubt and, at the core of it somehow, this deep desire to write more. The INHA (the national art history library, basically) is a fervent place to do this, because you are surrounded by dozens and dozens of serious souls bent upon their work. George Grosz to my left; Michelangelo to my right; seriousness of purpose all around. A couple of pieces of mine have come out these past few days, too: the beloved "Hewn" (a word I can't stop thinking about when I think about medieval art) is out in the beautiful, brilliant collection Inhuman Nature; and my first piece about Breton medieval art (the incredible jubé at the chapel of Saint-Fiacre in Le Faoüet) is out in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, in an issue on sacred objects that looks absolutely amazing. I write this with the usual combination of anxiety about my own writing and marveling at those of others, and increasingly with a desire to think collectively about writing. To write in good company is becoming one of the great joys of doing what I do. Roland Barthes revealed the deserved demise of the concept of the singular author long ago, but it's nice to be reminded. I love the promise of a table of contents and the intertwining of ideas, and the work of all towards some thing. I really like being a part of that. Party to that. So, yes, a public thank you to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen who nurtured the project from a conference roundtable at Kalamazoo two years ago to a symposium to the world at punctum created by Eileen Joy; and thank you to Shannon Gayk and Robyn Malo who shaped and guided invitations and conversations that created the terrific assembly of the JMEMS volume. And to the continuing experiment of the Material Collective. Over lunch breaks I've been reading Jacques Le Goff's last book, Faut-il vraiment découper l'histoire en tranches? (Must we periodize? That's not a good translation, but it gets at the heart of the question, at that insistent "vraiment" - really?), which is an ode to thinking together in its loving, searching review of all those who have sought to understand why we understand history in periods and epochs with distinct characteristics. I'd heard once that Le Goff never wrote books, but rather that he dictated them all - that he spoke them in beautiful rhetorical phrases that were later just slightly edited. I have no idea if that's true, but I love to think of the trajectory from idea to word to print filtered through conversation. Because he'd be talking to us, the dear readers, wouldn't he? Because there would be an address, a place for this good company.

After my last day "en bibliothèque" last week, I met up with everybody at the ever-beloved, still-raucous Chartier. God it's loud in there: but the surround-sound of so many conversations was like some wonderful ode to all the academic conferences, symposia, gatherings, and revelries I'd been thinking about that day. Somehow, Iris found a way (or was just exhausted enough) to daydream in the midst of the mayhem. She was indeed in good company.

No comments:

Post a Comment