Spectral Enmeshments: Speculative Phantasms in Three English Chronicles of the 12th and 13th Centuries Open Access
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The stories in this project, and the story of this project, are intimately invested in creating and exploring spectral enmeshments that are poly-chronic, wonder-oriented and always more than human. The narratives I work with—found in the writings of Walter Map, Gerald of Wales, and Gervase of Tilbury—include apparitional figures, objects and spaces that reorient our relationships with the natural and fantastical enmeshments we inhabit. To varying degrees, each of these authors celebrate the ambiguous nature of the tales they tell. They often seem to relish the sense of wonder these stories about phantom islands and lovers back from the dead evoke in reader and writer alike. Real and imagined, living and dead, present and past merge in these tales that blur categorical lines. The affective and phenomenological experiences of wonder, enchantment, and horror that come with dwelling in these spaces of ambiguity allow us to perceive and practice a more enmeshed way of thinking about our human and nonhuman relationships, as well as our various relationships with modes of knowledge-making and storytelling. More than metaphors for anthropocentric experience, the specters I seek to evoke are sites of metamorphosis. By exploring the ways these spectral encounters create and hold open spaces for thinking enmeshments in more network-oriented ways, I work toward a more inclusive, more intimate and effusive, trans-substantial mode of engaging with social-political-material-narrative knowledge ecologies.The project revolves around a theory of spectral intimacy, or transformative affective and phenomenological enmeshment. It is very much informed by work of object-oriented ontology and speculative realist theorists, especially those who think in terms of enmeshment. The project is divided into three chapters. The first is about spectral embodiment, the second is about spectral relationality, and the third is about environmental spectrality. My primary texts are Walter Map's Courtiers’ Trifles (De Nugis Curialium), Gerald of Wales’s Topography of Ireland (Topographia Hibernica) and Journey through Wales (Itineraruim Cambriae), and Gervase of Tilbury's Recreation for an Emperor (Otia Imperialia). I am drawn to these three texts primarily because they are each collections of stories that are influenced by several different traditions—vernacular, romance, exemplar, travel narrative, and others. Each is a multi-genric enmeshment, offering proliferations of story encounters. Several of the tales I explore appear in more than one of these texts, offering me the opportunity to track the tale through diverse narrative networks.