The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History by Andrew Cole, D. Vance Smith

By Andrew Cole, D. Vance Smith

This selection of essays argues that any legitimate thought of the fashionable should—indeed must—reckon with the medieval. providing a much-needed correction to theorists akin to Hans Blumenberg, who in his Legitimacy of the trendy Age describes the “modern age” as an entire departure from the center a while, those essays forcefully convey that thinkers from Adorno to Žižek have time and again drawn from medieval assets to theorize modernity. To omit the medieval, or to its endured influence on modern inspiration, is to forget the obligations of periodization.

In The Legitimacy of the center a long time, modernists and medievalists, in addition to students focusing on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century comparative literature, supply a brand new background of thought and philosophy via essays on secularization and periodization, Marx’s (medieval) concept of commodity fetishism, Heidegger’s scholasticism, and Adorno’s nominalist aesthetics. One essay illustrates the workings of medieval mysticism within the writing of Freud’s most famed sufferer, Daniel Paul Schreber, writer of Memoirs of My worried disease (1903). one other appears to be like at Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire, a theoretical synthesis whose conscientious medievalism used to be the topic of a lot polemic within the post-9/11 period, a time within which premodernity itself used to be perceived as a probability to western values. the gathering concludes with an afterword through Fredric Jameson, a theorist of postmodernism who has engaged with the medieval all through his occupation.

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Holsinger suggests that while Hardt and Negri themselves sought to frame the book’s project as a utopian revival of a premodern barbarism filtered through the lens of a utopian neo-Augustinianism, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, conservative critics perceived the book as a virtual script for al Qaeda. Holsinger considers Empire as a contemporary contribution to the genre of apocalypse and suggests that the book’s apocalyptic medievalism resonates tellingly within the milieu of the ‘‘9/11 premodern’’—especially the numerous medievalisms that served as a primary rhetorical weapon in the Bush administration’s war on terror.

This suspense of the law is akin to what Carl Schmitt has described as the ‘‘exception’’: a singular event that, like a miracle, entirely exceeds the existing order and thus suspends it. ∞∞ The legal order of a state, Schmitt argues, can never be fully self-enclosed; there is always the possibility that a ‘‘state of exception’’ might exceed the expectations of all 42 Kathleen Davis juridical norms. ’’∞≤ Constitutional development tended toward honing legal order into a pure mechanistic system for which all circumstances are calculable, thus eliminating, in Schmitt’s eyes, the state’s capacity to confront that which is incalculable according to its laws.

Bloch and Nichols regard Zumthor’s other work (particularly Speaking of the Middle Ages) as equally paradigm-shifting, ‘‘the first attempt, certainly in recent years, to propose the memoir as a legitimate exemplum within the domain of the ‘objective’ history of medieval studies’’ (introduction to Bloch and Nichols, Medievalism and the Modernist Temper, 6); see also Bloch, ‘‘Once and Future Middle Ages,’’ 71. For Zumthor’s influence on ‘‘studies . . of English medieval literature,’’ see the translator’s preface by Philip Bennett in Zumthor, Toward a Medieval Poetics, vii.

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