Queer environments: Reanimating ‘Adam Scrivyen’
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Integrating queer theory and ecocriticism, this essay reassesses the historical manuscript contexts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s shortest poem, commonly known as ‘Adam Scriveyn,’ while also reconsidering the text’s varied afterlives in contemporary scholarship, including its manifestations in printed editions and digital media. Attending to the material transformations of the poem across time invites close scrutiny of the medieval homosocial networks of textual production, and Elizabeth Freeman’s critique of chrononormativity helps to illustrate how the poet Chaucer, the London scrivener Adam Pynkhurst, and early copyist John Shirley are ‘engrouped’ into a queer collective bound together by intimate forms of co-dependency. Queer relationality in turn structures the literary and affective networks that contemporary medievalists construct by means of the poem itself. Both manuscript scholars and literary critics enact what Carolyn Dinshaw calls a ‘queer touch’ across time, inhabiting a temporality that incorporates the text’s previous readers and editors and even the animal body that gave its life to produce the parchment upon which the orginary text was written. This analysis examines the visual presentation of Pynkhurst’s handwriting on the website Late Medieval English Scribes and interactive online interface of the collaborative project Networks of Book Makers, Owners and Users in Late Medieval England. Instantiating the ‘trans-corporeality’ and ‘distributed agency’ of ecotheorists Stacy Alaimo and Jane Bennett, digital media not only (re)animates textual objects but also demonstrates how texts circulate through networked environments by means of human participants and more-than-human forces.
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