Recent work in such fields as disability studies, book history, affect studies, the history of emotions, and cultural studies has raised provocative questions about the writings of Thomas Hoccleve, the fifteenth-century Privy Seal clerk and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. Hoccleve’s autobiographical accounts of his struggles with mental illness, social disaffection, and the physical strain of writing have offered modern scholars fruitful sites for re-examining the body, its textual representations, and its affects in ways analogous to current work in these emergent interdisciplinary fields. In particular, Hoccleve’s texts permit critiques of the presupposition of normative, able bodies as well as explorations of the variety of non-rational, sub-discursive ways that bodies affect and are affected by their surroundings. Recent scholarly attention to both the discursive affects and material effects of Thomas Hoccleve’s poetry has offered numerous sites for touching the medieval to these modern interventions.
Our panel seeks papers that extend work along these critical interventions, organizing our thought around the metaphors of “touching” and “recovering.” Thomas Hoccleve’s affective and emotional economies stage the categories of wellness, malady, (dis)ability, precarity, and recovery in quixotic and often thought-provoking ways. The blurring languages of financial, mental, and physical recovery in Hoccleve’s poetics present a complex interaction between the physical and psychic burdens of a precarious life. We hope the panel will consider both the ways Hoccleve’s depictions of malady and recovery can be touching and the sites where modern critical methods can touch Hoccleve’s medieval world in ways similar to those proposed by affect theorists like Erin Manning and medieval literary scholars like Carolyn Dinshaw. We invite papers that touch upon Hocclevean recovery in all of its facets and forms, including his poetic descriptions of recovery and its attendant affects, the recovery of Hocclevean material, the medieval medical contexts of Hoccleve’s infirmities, the work of memory as an act of recovery in the past and the present, the place of the text in all of its materiality as a document of recovery, and the blurring of financial, psychic, and physical recovery. In other words, we ask what is touching about Hoccleve’s poetry – what does it mean to be touched by it, to touch on it, or to handle its material?
We hope to offer a more nuanced and sensitive account of the affects, emotions, bodies, and texts engendered by Hoccleve’s poetics of recovering while also remaining open to the ways that recovery and the poetics of touch can be risky (or risqué). We recognize that touching the past can be dangerous or have the potential to diminish or destroy the very material we seek to handle. Similarly, we are sensitive to the ways in which thinking, writing, and speaking about recovery and non-normative bodies or subject positions can be difficult, uncomfortable, potentially offensive, or otherwise disaffecting. To touch the past can be exposing. Yet, the past’s provocative power resides in its very exposures to us and its power to expose us in its brief brushes and gentle caresses. We take up Hocclevean recovery, then, in order to ask whether, how, and why it touches us and how we might continue to reach back a recovering hand to our Hocclevean texts.
Please submit abstracts and inquiries to The International Hoccleve Society at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15.