In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS that is not so perdurably poised between the heteronormative and the perverse or same-sex desire and different-sex desire. Instead, Burger’s queer is much more complexly situated and more complexly implicated in the modern landscape than we might have thought. How this newly queer medieval subject position that crisscrosses modern categories of desire founds a national self-concept—as the title promises—remains somewhat under-elaborated in the book, but Burger provides avenues aplenty for further considerations of the medieval national in terms of the medieval queer. Karma Lochrie Indiana University Jeffrey J. Cohen. Medieval Identity Machines. Medieval Cultures 35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Pp. xxix, 336. $63.95 cloth, $22.95 paper. Medieval Identity Machines is made up of six loosely related chapters. The first, ‘‘Time’s Machines,’’ argues for a nonlinear conception of time that enables reading medieval texts through contemporary theoretical lenses, and that unites the book’s six hundred years of texts by rejecting linear time in favor of an ‘‘unbounded middle’’ time where ideological constructions from different historical moments can interact (p. 21). The second chapter, ‘‘Chevalerie,’’ argues that the mounted and armed knight should be reconceived as a composite organism rather than a set of discrete entities. ‘‘Masoch / Lancelotism’’ takes on courtly ideology through psychoanalytic theory, arguing that masochism is crucial to the sexuality of literary heroes of adulterous love. In ‘‘The Solitude of Guthlac ,’’ Cohen proposes that religious discipline constrains Guthlac to disperse his personal history in confrontations with torturing demons, unmaking his secular identity and preparing him for solitary eremeticism . ‘‘The Becoming-Liquid of Margery Kempe’’ considers how Margery ’s adopted attributes, such as her white clothing and her roaring tearfulness, supplement her language and contribute to her effect on others, an effect importantly visceral as well as rational. The last chapter , ‘‘On Saracen Enjoyment,’’ is a subtle assessment of how racial disPAGE 297 297 ................. 11491$ CH13 11-01-10 14:02:24 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER course accrues staying power from the pleasure it induces, propelling its circulation beyond any practical and ideological usefulness. The ‘‘identity machine’’ of Cohen’s title draws on the works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, which conceive an escape from bourgeois modernity and stifling social constraint. Especially through fantasy and creativity, Deleuze and Guattari argue, identities can emerge that commingle and hybridize the human with the surrounding nonhuman environment. Cohen adapts their ‘‘desiring-machines’’ and ‘‘becominganimals ’’ in his term ‘‘identity machine’’ to characterize fusions of human and nonhuman that create unprecedented subjectivities with expanded or specialized capacities. The ‘‘identity machine’’ is a provocative frame for opening discussion on the diverse medieval sources gathered here. Its disadvantages are perhaps the price of its attractions. It appealingly shifts the terms of analysis from the familiar dichotomies of human versus animal, human versus environment, and human versus artifact, to focus on the inextricability of humanness from what is deemed nonhuman . But Deleuze and Guattari’s specific theoretical purchase must go protean, morphing and even contradicting itself in the task of accounting for the medieval material; at the same time, the medieval material must be pressed out of shape in order to adjust it to this theoretical paradigm. For example, the relationship of man and horse in chivalry is altogether worth analysis, but ‘‘becoming-animal’’ must be de-fanged to encompass chivalry. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a radical resistance to normality and social constraint—not just anti-Oedipal but antilogical , anti-humanist, anti-systematic. Exceptional artists, seers, psychotics , children, and other marginals embrace aberrance in subversions and destabilizations of conventional social identities. This paradigm has little purchase on knights and horses in chivalry, even the chivalry of romance. Knighthood is not an oppressed or alienated status; a knight’s commitment to authoritative and normative codes disqualifies him from the system-subverting becoming-animal of A Thousand Plateaus. Thus Cohen’s general assessments of historical chivalry are not convincing: that the mounted knight ‘‘was in fact a creature composed of flux rather than essence, a centaur sustained through malleable alliance, a fantastic becoming-horse’’ (p. 47); or that ‘‘the supposedly inanimate stirrup is ‘neither object nor subject’ but a ‘thing that...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 297-300
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.