Monday, May 4, 2009

Postcolonial Ango-Saxon

I'm surprised by today's In the Middle. It links to a very interesting-sounding project by Eva Frojmovic of the University of Leeds: Postcolonising the Medieval Image.

Jeffery J. Cohen blocks out a portion of the project abstract that got my attention:

During the last 30 years, postcolonial theory has transformed literary and film studies, yet in the last decade, only a few medievalist historians and literary scholars have used postcolonial thought, while almost no medievalist art historians have engaged with postcolonial theory. Why should this neglect matter? For two (related) reasons: first, the canon of medieval art has become fossilised through remaining defined by now outmoded methods; secondly, methodological separatism is leading to a split within the art historical community, with many medievalists isolated from their modernist colleagues. Exceptions aside, the study of medieval art and visualities has remained eurocentric in its canon and old-fashioned in its approach. The main tools are still stylistic and iconographic analysis, and the pursuit of "historical context". "Influence" is still a key concept, and tends to leave intact the old assumptions that artistic ideas have origins in self-contained cultural formations. These models in turn perpetuate the exclusion of "marginal" or "minority" subjects from the canon and help reinforce borders around Europe. Certain ideas are then "owned" by certain cultures, and anyone making use of them is an "imitator" - an essentially chauvinistic model. With the petrification of the canon and the entrenchment of methods, no methodological breakthroughs can be made, and medieval art historians struggle to communicate with their modernist counterparts. Moreover, medieval art is in danger of losing relevance and losing its place in the imagination of students and the public if it is seen as having meaning only within the past.

I thought that PCT had already come and gone within Anglo-Saxon Studies. Do I have any basis for this? No, not really. But I kind of stayed away because I thought I would be entering into a full pool. But now maybe I'll revisit the idea. I always liked PCT and seemed to be able to work well in/with it.

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