The Futures of Medieval French: Essays in Honour of Sarah Kay contains essays on aspects of medieval French literature, celebrating the scholarship of Sarah Kay and her influence on the field. Here, editors Jane Gilbert and Miranda Griffin introduce us to their work and explain how the volume came about. Don’t miss details about the upcoming online launch next month!
Collaboration, the sweetest spice of academic life, lies at the heart of The Futures of Medieval French: Essays in Honour of Sarah Kay, published last month in the Boydell & Brewer Gallica series that Prof. Kay, as founding editor, piloted to its present international reputation. When planning this volume, we wanted to celebrate not only Kay’s rich, varied, and transformative scholarly contributions across Medieval Studies, but also the practices that she has pioneered during her very distinguished career at Liverpool, Cambridge, Princeton, and NYU. The volume’s eighteen essays and six section introductions were conceived as dialogues with Kay’s work: each section, introduced by a senior medievalist who has worked closely with Kay, focuses on one of the major monographs that Kay published between 1990 and 2017, and invites three scholars, at different stages in their academic careers, to enter into an exchange of ideas with that monograph, revisiting and developing its thinking in new directions. Collaboration developed further at a workshop in April 2019, generously hosted by St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and via intense editorial discussions. Our contributors and section editors responded with an enthusiasm and commitment that testify to the respect, affection, and intellectual vigour that Kay inspires; their responses encompass animal studies, musicology, temporality, the material turn, medieval textuality, feminism, queer theory, voice, medieval and modern intellectual formations, psychoanalysis, philology, visual arts, transversal criticism, the literary object, affect, rhetoric, body, the past, modern responses to medieval forms and tropes, and both Christian and non-Christian texts and thought-patterns. A particular pleasure of the project for us has been working closely with each other.
Of course, one should never judge a book by its cover, but we’re especially delighted with the cover of our book: an image of the interconnecting branches of Philosophy and the seven Liberal Arts, Chantilly, Musée Condé 433, f. 9v. It was suggested to us by Rosa M. Rodríguez Porto and Julian Yolles of the Centre for Medieval Literature (University of Southern Denmark and University of York), and we were immediately captivated by its depiction of the interconnected nature of knowledge about the world. Rather than the modern divide between arts and science, the image indicates that medieval scholars pictured a more interconnected way of enquiring into the cosmos: this way of reading resonated for us with the ingenious connections Kay has always forged in her career – between texts, between ideas, and between people. It also suggests ways of plotting the future of our discipline, in an academic climate where medievalist scholarship is under threat, but where it is more vital than ever. Being taught by Sarah Kay is, as we can both attest, an invigorating, inspiring, and occasionally unsettling experience. She taught us, and her many students in the UK and the US, to challenge assumptions and read critically, and to take intellectual risks and explore uncharted paths. We are delighted to honour an extraordinary woman with a collection of essays in this speculative, adventurous spirit.
All are welcome to the online launch at 6-7.30pm UK time on Wednesday, 14 July 2021. Professors Marisa Galvez, Miri Rubin, and Eliza Zingesser will be discussing the collection, chaired by Dr Mary Franklin-Brown. Prof. Kay will be speaking, and contributors will be present for Q&A. Please register at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/institute-of-advanced-studies/events/2021/jul/ias-book-launch-futures-medieval-french
This guest post was written by Jane Gilbert, Senior Lecturer in French at University College London and Miranda Griffin, University Lecturer in Medieval French at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Murray Edwards College.