This is an abstract for a possible project for a seminar I am taking called "History and Representation," with a focus simultaneously on historiography from the middle ages, and "modern" histioriographies about the middle ages. We'll see where it will go from here.
Desiring Auden Desiring “Wulf and Eadwacer”: Towards a Poetics of Anglo-Saxon Historiography
This paper will investigate, as a historiographical relationship of desire, the Exeter Book poem “Wulf and Eadwacer” and W.H. Auden’s early poem “The Secret Agent” (or “control of the passes was the key...”). Starting from the possibility of Carolyn Dinshaw’s “touch across time,” the paper reads the history of the interpretive and philological enigmas of the Anglo-Saxon poem. Acknowledging the Old English poem’s own complex discourse of physical pleasure, desire, and pain/longing, it reads the history of the poem and its scholarship as a historiographical riddle provoking a set of questions about the possibilities of taking pleasure in Anglo-Saxon texts. The paper then will closely read Auden’s poem and relevant archival material as a site that provokes a certain pleasure in being haunted by the painful enigmas of “Wulf and Eadwacer”: the convergence of linguistic, sexual, and poetic histories that seem impossible to represent because of a contemporary reader’s condition of having always already been, like those both in Auden’s poem and the Anglo-Saxon poem, naefre gesomnad . I thus intend to ask what it means to desire/take pleasure (across time) in a poem with such enigmatic status as a poetic and historiographical practice. In the interest of brevity, despite the interest in pleasure “across time,” I can only gesture at what it means that this paper partakes of the “recent” turn to questions of temporality in queer and medieval studies. What the paper attempts to provoke, in a preliminary manner, is the possibility of a poetics (of pleasure and desire) of medieval historiography: what it means to take pleasure in, and to desire, the impossibility of our (plural, not OE dual) giedd geador with Anglo-Saxon texts.
other possible 'informants' for the project: Specters of Marx , Karma Lochrie's Heterosyncrasies ....