Medieval Identity Machines (Google eBook)

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U of Minnesota Press, 2003 - 336 pages
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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.
MIM is, in the end, an awesome display of intellectual narcissism, one surely not without appeal to pockets of students here and there hungry for the "novelty" of the loose play of grand concepts. Currently there are few advanced scholars who find this book either a compelling blueprint for careful intellectual work or a model for "dreaming" a new middle ages. What most find was summed up best by a distinguished medievalist: "the relation of each chapter, each idea, in Medieval Identity Machines is like the parallel play of two-year-olds." This reviewer could not agree more.
 

Contents

Times Machines i
1
Chevalerie
35
MasochLancelotism
78
The Solitude of Guthlac
116
The BecomingLiquid of Margery Kempe
154
On Saracen Enjoyment
188
Copyright

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Page xiv - It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections.
Page xii - Deleuze argued, is: [an] intensive way of reading, in contact with what's outside the book, as a flow meeting other flows, one machine among others, as a series of experiments for each reader in the midst of events that have nothing to do with books, as tearing the book into pieces, getting it to interact with other things, absolutely anything, . . . [this] is reading with love [une manière amoureuse].

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