Faculty and Graduate Student Colloquium: Johnson and Lehman
Thu, November 17, 2011 • 5:00 PM • HRH 2.118 French and Italian Lounge
Sexy Declensions in the Medieval Grammar Classroom
This paper looks at “Scribere clericulis,” an erotic parody in verse of Alexandre de Villedieu's widely used grammar handbook, the Doctrinale Puerorum (c. 1200), in order to examine the sexual politics surrounding the teaching of Latin grammar in the early 13th century. Alexandre's intention, in producing a simple versified introductory grammar, was in part to isolate the teaching of grammatical rules from the erotic, and morally suspect, content of the classical literary examples typically used in the grammar classroom. But, as the author of “Scribere clericulis” warns, when the students lift their heads up from their grammar books they will want to learn to “decline” the luscious bodies of young women and to learn the true meaning of “a copula, a conjunction, and an interjection, while mingling thigh with thigh.” Alexandre's attempt to “clean up” the grammar classroom backfires, producing an even more erotically charged pedagogical framework that, now stripped of literary content, isolates and foregrounds grammar’s (intrinsically erotic) focus on connections, disjunctions, and substitutions.
The threat of the unclassifiable art form: bande dessinée in the nineteenth century
Considered by scholars to be the first bédéiste, Rodolphe Töpffer’s use of fixed sequential images and panel-to-panel transitions subverts Gotthold Lessing’s eighteenth century dictum which categorizes painting as a spatial medium and poetry as temporal, creating an “unclassifiable” medium. The invention of the comic strip generated a novel interdependency between word and image proving that spatial and temporal differences can no longer be employed as “norms” to establish generic differences in the arts, at least not in the same way. Furthermore, Töpffer’s comic strips illustrate what Rensselaer Lee calls the “dangers” of an art that refuses to observe its limitations, a danger that according to WJT Mitchell is ideological. In my paper I suggest that the policing of boundaries among the genres is a response to anxieties concerning the interrelated questions of social class and technology. Through a reading of Töpffer’s work and its immediate reception, I argue that the inability to contain the comic strip within a set of codes signaled an ideological shift and heightened sociopolitical anxieties about mass production and the education of the newly emerging working class.
Refreshments will be served.