Queer Pasts, Digital Futures: The Case for Medieval Books

  • Bridget Whearty, English, Rhetoric and General Literature, Binghamton University
    Coach House, Green College, UBC, and livestreamed

    Wednesday, March 22, 5-6:30pm with reception to follow
    Tea and coffee will be available at 4:30pm in the Piano Lounge
    in the series
    John Grace Memorial Book Historian in Residence at Green College
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    Medieval manuscripts offer abundant representation of queer+trans people—from catty 5th-century epigrams admonishing specific sex acts, to 12th-century nuns penning letters full of sapphic longing, to vitae of trans saints that remained widely popular for centuries. Yet today many of these texts remain scattered and siloed, profoundly inaccessible to students and the general public: some texts are available only in badly-out-of-date translations, some are out-of-print or locked behind paywalls, some texts have never been translated or printed at all. And some reach us in editions that have been badly doctored by previous scholars, fundamentally distorting the content and deforming subsequent scholarship. This is an urgent political and serious ethical problem! Queer and trans people need access to the real, material evidence of our past—especially now, as we face an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation sweeping through the United States.

    In this talk, Bridget Whearty explores some of the conditions that have led to the current invisibility of the queer+trans Middle Ages, focusing on a) longstanding editorial practices that have aggressively reshaped the medieval past to fit modern cisheteronormative interests, and b) the more recent undervaluing of digitization and collaborative projects as significant scholarly labour. By using digitized manuscripts like Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 19411 and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Latin 10318 to engage with the original queer medieval content, she offers a model for pushing back on these patterns of erasure and neglect. What we ultimately need, she argues, is a massive open educational resource that can draw together, frame and share LGBTQ+ primary sources—in manuscript, transcription and translation—from around the world and throughout the Middle Ages. In the final minutes of this talk and in the following Q&A, she hopes to workshop her nascent digital project “Always Here: a queer+trans global medieval sourcebook” that aims to do precisely this, in the hope that knowing and sharing our real queer+trans past can help us build a better present and future.

    Bridget Whearty (she/her) is the John Grace Memorial Book Historian in Residence at Green College. She works at the intersection of literary, medieval, manuscript and information studies. Her research and teaching interests are wide-ranging and include late medieval death culture and the legacy of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer; manuscripts, digital humanities, media history and digitization; pedagogy and information literacy instruction; and queer and trans medieval literature and material culture.

    Bridget is the author of Digital Codicology: Medieval Books and Modern Labor (Stanford University Press, 2022). This case study-rich book demystifies digitization, revealing what it’s like to remake medieval books online and connecting modern digital manuscripts to their much longer media history, from print, to photography to the rise of the internet. She is also the creator of the Caswell Test which challenges humanities scholars writing about “the archive” to more rigorously and thoughtfully cite and collaborate with real archivists and librarians. She is co-PI, with Masha Raskolnikov, of the nascent digital project and OER “Always Here: a Queer+Trans Global Medieval Sourcebook.”

    Bridget  held a Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Data Curation for Medieval Studies at Stanford University, and her article “Chaucer’s Death, Lydgate’s Guild, and the Construction of Community in Fifteenth-Century English Literature” received the New Chaucer Society Early Career Essay Prize. Her work has been supported by a University of Glasgow Library Visiting Research Fellowship and a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (IASH) at Binghamton University. Whearty is currently an Associate Professor at Binghamton University, in upstate New York, in the United States.

  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.

March 22nd, 2023 from  5:00 PM to  6:30 PM
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