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Alexander Lectures

Alexander Lectures
15 Kings College Circle, UC 140
Time: Mar 12th, 4:30 pm End: Mar 15th, 4:30 pm
Interest Categories: Women/Gender, Urban, Sexual Diversity, Medieval Studies (FAS), History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Book History/Print Culture
Four-lecture series by Carolyn Dinshaw, Social & Cultural Analysis and English, Columbia University

University College is pleased to present the 2012 Alexander Lectures:

How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time

Carolyn Dinshaw
Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, English, New York University

March 12, 13, 14 & 15, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 140

  • Lecture One (12 March): Asynchrony Stories: Monks, Kings, Sleepers, and Other Time Travellers
  • Lecture Two (13 March): Temporally Oriented: The Book of John Mandeville, British India, Philology, and the Postcolonial Medievalist
  • Lecture Three (14 March): Out of Synch in the Catskills: Rip van Wynkle, James I and Other Ghosts
  • Lecture Four (15 March): The Land of the Land: Amateur Medievalism and Queer Love in A Canterbury Tale

A monk follows a bird beyond the cloister and upon returning discovers he's been gone for 300 years. A traveler comes upon the Fountain of Youth, tastes it, and feels the better for it – until gout and arthritis catch up with him in the end. An insomniac picks up a book by a prematurely old man about to be killed; reading his philosophy brings not only much-desired sleep but also intimations of eternity. A man obsessed with the past to the point of criminality reclines on the earth and hears his forefathers traveling in the distance. In this lecture series Carolyn Dinshaw takes up tales of asynchrony – of people transported into the “wrong” time, or out of step in their own times, or even at temporal odds with their own bodies – in order to explore the continually perplexing nature of the present, the now.

Starting with a tale referred to by Aristotle in his exposition of time in the Physics and moving to narratives from the Middle Ages and, finally, to modern readings and retellings by amateur medievalists, this lecture series reveals that the everyday temporal linearity we think we experience turns out to be extraordinarily fragile. By way of amateur medievalists who take their own sweet time (as opposed to professional medievalists laboring under the rule of the clock) – amateurs understood etymologically as motivated by love, as a bit queer in a world defined by expertise – we see that time is in fact queerer than we might ordinarily suspect.

These events are free and open to the public.  For further information, please contact University College at (416) 978-7416.

Carolyn Dinshaw has been interested in the relationship between past and present ever since she began to study medieval literature. Her 1982 dissertation, subsequently published as Chaucer and the Text in 1988, explored the relevance of new critical modes for older literature, while in her 1989 book, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics, she investigated the connection of past and present via the Western discursive tradition of gender. In Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (1999), she traced a queer desire for history. And in her current book in progress, How Soon is Now? Problems of the Present, Medieval and Modern, she looks directly at the experience of time itself, as it is represented in medieval works and as it is experienced in readers of those works. In the classroom, she regularly teaches materials past and present, in courses ranging from Medieval Misogyny to Queer New York City.

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