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Middle English Ekphrasis: Aesthetics and Socioeconomics in Late Medieval Poetry

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia

 

Image: St. Erkenwald instructing monks. A historiated initial from the Chertsey Breviary (Bodley Ms Lat. liturg. d. 42, f. 46rv), c. 1300, Chertsey Breviary. Wikimedia Commons

Date: Wednesday 21 September 2022
Time: 4:00pm AWST / 6:00pm AEST
Venue: Online via Zoom, hosted by The University of Western Australia
Enquiries and to register: marina.gerzic@uwa.edu.au. Please register by Friday 16 September.

Ekphrasis has attracted a long history of scholarship as a pronounced form of aesthetic display in literary texts. Where major touchstones of scholarship on ekphrasis (Heffernan, 1993; Krieger, 1992) had previously been drawn to classical and modern materials, more recent work has begun to take stock of the peculiarity of medieval ekphrasis (Johnston, Knapp and Rouse, 2015). This paper explores some related avenues of enquiry about the nature, significance, and functions of ekphrasis in major Middle English poetry (Chaucer and Alliterative poetry, especially St Erkenwald and the Piers Plowman tradition). Surveying the vocabulary of cultural production available to late medieval poets, the paper suggests that much work on ekphrasis is theoretically antithetical to an understanding of patronage and artistic production in an age before ‘the Arts’ became defined. Instead, I focus on key passages of Middle English poetry to show how the trope of ekphrasis could be used to distinct effect in different texts: binding cultural production (both poetic and plastic) to the socio-economics of patronage; as a hostile, satirical form of verbal display; and as a mystery, a deliberate enigma, in the examples of St Erkenwald and John Metham’s Amoryus and Cleopes.

Chair

Dr Jane Vaughan (The University of Western Australia)

Speaker

Mike Rodman Jones is Associate Professor of English at the University of Nottingham (UK), and works on medieval and early modern literature. His second monograph is forthcoming in the Studies in Renaissance Literature Series with Boydell and Brewer. He spoke at the "Feeling (for) the Premodern" Symposium at The University of Western Australia in 2016; the paper was published in Exemplaria 30:3 (2018). Email: Mike.rodmanjones@nottingham.ac.uk.

This seminar is co-sponsored by the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medievial and Early Modern Studies, Inc (ANZAMEMS), the Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group, Inc, and the ARC Centre for Excellence for the History of Emotions.