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Five years ago, when this book appeared, it promised something it failed to deliver, namely, an "investigation of the medieval as a site of infinite possibility, as an uncanny middle that can derail the somber trajectories of history and bring about pasts as yet undreamed" (pp. xxiii-xxiv). What MIM delivered instead was a bolus of undigested theory--it is clear, e.g., that Cohen knows little to nothing about masochism, the subject of his third chapter--used to support readings of a predictable set of texts. "Pasts as yet undreamed" turn out to be the ever-recognizable pasts of the average graduate student seminar paper that attempts to bring together, say, Deleuze-Guattari with medieval culture with only the slightest traces of 1) a deep familiarity with the intellectual tradition in which figures like Deleuze and Guattari wrote and thought, and 2) a knowledge transcending the sources that one finds in the standard histories of the period. Furthermore, "infinite possibility" turns out to be nothing more than the application of theoretical cliches (e.g., the body-without-organs and the assemblage) to specific literary moments. There is no sense here of an over-arching historical vision or, for that matter, an ethics; indeed, the book's own ethical glimmers are self-extinguished in the self-referential postscript.
Aliscans Anglo-Saxon England animal argues assemblage become Beowulf bodily body Book century Chanson chansons de geste Charrete Chaucer Chevalier chivalry Chretien de Troyes Christ Christian conjoined constructed contemporary corporeal critical Crusade cultural Deleuze and Guattari demons describes desire difference Dinshaw discourse embodied enjoyment episode essay Ethiopians fantasy Felix Felix Guattari figure flesh Foucault gender Gilles Deleuze gret Guenevere Guthlac heroic horse human identity machine insists Islam Jews Kempe's tears king knight Lancelot language Latin likewise Literature male Margery Kempe masculinity masochism masochistic medieval studies Mercia Middle Ages Middle English monsters Muslim mystical narrative Old English passion perverse poem possible postcolonial queer queer theory quotation race racial reading relation Roland romance Saint Saracen sche sexuality signifying social somatic structure Sultan of Babylon temporal textual Thousand Plateaus tion trans transformed translation University Vita voice warhorse women words writes
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