The Other Zombie Apocalypse

I came across the following quote today:

“You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”

It’s from David Foster Wallace on writing, death, and redemption, and I sat there staring at it in disbelief. I vehemently disagree with this quote, as it is written. And now I will write an essay in reaction to how it is written without actually looking at the rest of the article. Without giving it context.

Dread of relationships and loneliness have very little to do with the understanding that we’re going to die. What we’re afraid of, though, is never fully living. We’re afraid of being the walking dead — dead before we die. Rotting from the inside out because we’re not getting the connection from others.


Continue reading

International Congress on Medieval Studies 2013: Sessions, Commentary, and Bookses

Kalamazoo Cherry Blossoms

Everyone calls it the Zoo, and I suppose if you’re staying in the dorms and/or eating in the dining hall, if you end up at the book exhibit during lunch time or between sessions, then I expect it can be rather zoo-like. But I managed to side-step all of that. It felt like a regular day on campus to me. Only without the anxiety I usually associate with school.

So! I loved it and I want to go back every year FOREVER. Yay! I feel even more that I have found my people. I now consider all medievalists family. Dysfunctional, like every other family I’ve ever known, but family nonetheless. Doesn’t mean I’ll like all of you, but there’s a recognizable kinship.

The rest of what follows is just an outline of where I went and what I bought. Mostly as a record for myself.



10am: Medicine in Medieval Iberia
Sponsored by Ibero-Medieval Association of North America (IMANA)
Comments: omgomgomg: Medical Cosmetics? An Ekphrastic Approach by Cristina Guardiola was SUCH a fantastic paper. It wove together the disparate-seeming fields of courtly aesthetics and medicine. Loved. It. So. Hard.

1:30pm: Bos Motz: Well-Chosen Words in Occitania
Sponsored by Société Guilhem IX
Comments: Cha-ching! I loved all of these papers. The first one gave me excellent leads for one of my research projects. The third one was an exquisite bait-and-switch with the best sort of poetry that I So Wanted To Be Period-Authentic. And written by a woman. Y’know, I like pornographic lesbian poetry a lot less when I know it’s written by a man. Go figure. And the second paper? speaking of pornographic. oh yes.

For the record, if you can read the following and we don’t already know each other, feel free to introduce yourself. 😉

A vos volgra metre lo veit que’m pent
E mos colhons desobre’l cul assire
Eu non o dic mais per ferir sovent
Car en fotre ai mes tot mon albire,
Que’l veit chanta, quant el ve lo con rire,
E per paor que no’i venga’l gelos,
Li met mon veit e retenc los colhos
(Bec, Burlesque et Obscenité, p. 171) PC 461, 35

3:30pm: Troubadours and Philosophers: A Roundtable on De nobilitate animi
Sponsored by Société Guilhem IX
Comments: Must email the person who did the second paper because he made all kinds of interesting points.



10am: The Medievalism of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Volumes
Organizer: Carol R. Dover, Georgetown University
Comments: So. Freaking. Cool. I have an all-new appreciation for the obsessive, expansive extent of Rowling’s efforts. Little things like Hermione’s name being a feminized form of Hermes, aka Mercury. The periodic symbol for which is HG… Hermione Granger. I remarked to a friend that there needs to be a compendium elucidating all the hermetic, linguistic, classical, medieval, folkloric, etc. references that Rowling makes because it’s all just so mind-blowing. I’m pretty certain Carol Dover is organizing something like this, but not specifically a compendium. Just a book of essays, iirc. Still, I would so buy that. And this is where I learn the difference between being a fan of something and being a geek about something. I am a fan. Were I a geek, I’d be writing paper proposals and submitting them to Dover for acceptance.

1:30pm: Book Exhibit!
Yay! Whoa, holy crap, books! And all.that.amber……

3:30pm: Last Things
Sponsor: The Lollard Society
Comments: These are not the themes of death I was looking for. I now more fully appreciate all those ridiculously specific paper titles. I got terribly excited about the first two papers, the first being on Care of the Self and the second being What We Talk About When We Talk About Death, except that each was on specific texts and bodies of work about which I neither knew anything nor cared to. Alas. I skipped out about five minutes into the second paper and went to:

Performances of Marie de France
Sponsor: International Marie de France Society
Comments: two performances and I missed all but the last 5 minutes of the second one. Boo to that, but what I saw I liked. Alas, ’twas my biggest disappointment of the entire trip. I still has a sad.

Note: Just to give a frame of reference for how ridiculously extensive this conference is, by this point, there have been 352 sessions slotted into a total of 7 start times (there’s an evening session on Thursday that I didn’t go to). Pretty much no one gets to see everything they want to see. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’re still in Awesome-Land. 😉


10:00am: Somatic Identities in Medieval Iberia
Sponsor: Ibero-Medieval Association of North America (IMANA)
Comments: Well this is completely fascinating. I now know that the quality of narrative associated with dark (non-white) skin in manuscripts is highly contextual and can reference a highly moral, wise, upper class figure, as well as a debased, sinful, sexually immoral being. Nice. O_o Also, I now have an additional research topic regarding the feminine embodiment of Christ. Caroline Walker Bynum and I have some quality time to spend together.

1:30pm: Astrology and Magic
Sponsor: Societas Magica
Comments: Standing room only by the time the papers started. I remain utterly disinterested in anything related to Judaism in the Middle Ages. Even Marla Segol’s lovely paper on Cosmogony, Astrology, and Power in the Late Antique Yotzer failed to inspire the least bit of pique within me. I keep trying and it keeps not happening. With all the Jewish friends I have, I can’t help but feel guilty about this. Enough already! I don’t need the Jewish guilt on top of the Italian Catholic guilt I have already managed to divest myself of. Sheesh. 😉

The paper I came to see? “High Times: Astral Magic and the Curious World of Psychoactive Substances in the Picatrix” by Daniel Attrell, Univ. of Waterloo. OH HELL YES. Suffumagation. Entheogens. Hermetic correspondences. And it left me wanting more. I suppose because I’m not new to this topic. At the end, I felt a deflated sort of, et alors? But everyone else seemed pleased and he did do really well. It was just, I suppose, that I’m not a beginner and was wanting something a bit more in-depth. Guess I’ll be needing to get a copy of The Picatrix myself. I’d not heard of it prior to this conference.

The third paper attempted to make assertions about the types of people (social status, etc.) using the Picatrix by what types of spells were contained therein. The problem with that is that the text began as Arabic, was brought to Moorish Spain and translated into Spanish. It was thereafter translated into Latin. So attempting to discover too terribly much, I think, would be quite the challenge. Particularly since it is likely not listed within the text when each addition and edit was made. And in the recopying, there are typically changes made, things left out, things added. It seems too enormous a task. However, the presenter did provide an interesting breakdown of the types of spells contained therein, which was useful to learn.

3:30pm: Mystical Gets Physical: The Bodily Element in Female Spirituality
Sponsor: Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History
Comments: The second paper was interesting enough. It featured a slide of a 14th century codex related to Beatrice of Nazareth. In Belgium, of course. Beatrice, that is. The codex had an illustration of the lance wound of Christ that was absolutely fascinating. I so wish I had the time to do more research on this topic. It’s just completely riveting for me. The third paper was the best, though. The presenter, Carol Heffernan, spoke about the erotic and sensual nature of Julian of Norwich’s descriptions of God and it just completely drew me in. As well, her paper tied together elements of the second paper, elements from the second paper in the first session on this day, and the core of an argument I’d been making over lunch with a friend just a couple of hours prior to this session, I’d apparently walked into synchronicity-land again. I was just floored by it all and went up afterwards to talk to her and tell her how very much I enjoyed everything she’d wrote about. Anything that fuses the sensual and erotic with the spiritual and the medieval is just so completely up my alley y’all just don’t even know. She said she felt like an interloper because she usually deals with Chaucer and the bawdiness therein, and here she was giving a paper on the devotional eroticism of Julian of Norwich in a session lead by a Benedictine sister. I was thinking, “I know that feel, sister. I know it well.” She was very relieved to know that several of us were thrilled with her paper.

5:30pm: This is when we go to Fetzer to stake our claim on seats for the 8pm session of the Pseudo Society. Wherein I laugh so hard I can’t even breathe. I bruised one of my knuckles from pounding my fist in hearty approval on the table. Jesus, it was awesome.

10:00pm: The Dance. Fucking Fantastic. Except I canNOT dance to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s music. What the shit is that? And I really only managed to seriously get my groove on during half of one song I didn’t even recognize. But the showing off was met with approving compliments from a couple of people, so that was ego-stroking enough. Next time, I will know how to do the Electric Slide. That is my homework.



8:30am: hahahahahahano. SLEEP.

Got to the Book Exhibit for about 10-ish and scored a veritable butt-load off books. A Gargantuan Butt-Load. Because 50% of already-marked-down books, glory glory hallelujah!


Precious Bookses
Lark in the Morning, Kehew, ed.
Ennobling Love, Jaeger
The Old French Fabliaux: Essays on Comedy and Context, Burr, ed.
Ermengard of Narbonne, Cheyette
The Romance of the Rose, Dalhberg
Le livre du duc de vrais amans, Christine de Pizan
Dante’s Inferno, Hollander, transl.
Astrology in the Middle Ages, Wedel
The Song of the Cathar Wars, Shirley, transl.
Memory and Re-Creation in Troubadour Lyric, Van Vleck
Love Words: The Self and the Text in Medieval and Renaissance Poetry, Regan
Catherine of Siena, Noffke
Erec and Enide, Raffel, transl.
Cligès, Raffel, transl.
The Writings of Julian of Norwich, Watson

All for a glorious $135.00.

Zoo Books 2013

On Noetic Nuance

I’m a word geek. I love how words sound and how interrelational they can be, replete with layers of meaning and internal reference. Noetic is an adjective that comes from the Greek noetikos, intellectual, which comes from noein, to think, which comes from nous, mind. So noetic means of, relating to, or based in the intellect.

Here’s further information taken from a HuffPo blog post about the word noetic and the burgeoning branch of science calling itself noetic science:

no•et•ic: From the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, or subjective understanding. As defined by the philosopher William James in 1902, noetic refers to “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority…”

sci•ence: Systems of acquiring knowledge that use observation, experimentation, and replication to describe and explain natural phenomena

no•et•ic sci•ences: A multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experience.

In other words, there are several ways we can know the world around us. Science focuses on external observation and is grounded in objective evaluation, measurement, and experimentation. This is useful in increasing objectivity and reducing bias and inaccuracy as we interpret what we observe.

But another way of knowing is subjective — or internal — including gut feelings, intuition, hunches — the way you know you love your children, for example, or experiences you have that cannot be explained or proven, but feel absolutely real nonetheless. This way of knowing is what we call noetic.

From a purely materialist, mechanistic perspective, all subjective — noetic — experience arises from physical matter, and consciousness is simply a byproduct of brain and body processes. The noetic sciences focus on bringing a scientific lens to the study of subjective experience, and to ways that consciousness may influence the physical world.

Consciousness has been defined in many ways, but in this context, consciousness is awareness — how people perceive, interpret, and direct their attention and intention toward their environment. Collective consciousness is how a group (an institution, a society, a species) perceives, attends to, and makes meaning of the world. In its largest, most universal sense, consciousness has been referred to as a “milieu of potential,” the shared ground of being from which all experiences and phenomena arise and eventually return.

The essential hypothesis underlying the noetic sciences is, put simply, that consciousness matters.



On a personal level, because ‘noetic’ rhymes with ‘poetic’, it references the poetic for me when it look at it. And the inverse is somewhat true, as well. When I look at ‘poetic’, I see mind and consciousness intertwined with heart and spirit.

I find it curious that the dictionary definitions focus on the intellect but the word has its roots in the mind. When someone thinks of their mind, it’s not just brain. There’s extra there. Mind is a tricky word to define because it’s not just the thinky part.

Adding layers to the idea that thinky = brain, we can look and notice that there are neural clusters in both the heart and the gut. So what does that do to our idea of the intellect being based solely on the brain? Turns it on its head, is what it does. 😉

Noetikos is a full body experience. So is poetry. There are nuances and layers of meaning within the concept of ‘mind’, within the concept of ‘intellect’, within the lines that we write on the page, within the impromptu and practiced lines we speak to each other. Unconscious foreshadowing, personal and universal symbolism, it all follows us around and is woven through the fibres of our synaptic sequencing and the constellations of clusters we call friends and family, bodies of texts, bodies of knowledge, embodied spirit, embodiment of love and all the information that state of being holds. The subtleties of consciousness embedded within a physical framework.

Noetic Nuance.