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  • Wednesday, December 15, 2021 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Graduate Lounge (FBH 330)

This is a reminder that we will be meeting virtually next Wednesday, December 15th, at 4:30 PM, for a discussion of Matthew Aiello's dissertation chapter, titled "The Repeating Stitch: Rebuilding Language after Loss in the Orrmulum." About this draft and its relation to the rest of his dissertation, Matt writes: 

Thank you for reading! This is a very drafty draft that is likely too premature to share (this is not the modesty topos), but I am taking the spirit of the workshop to heart and looking for help on how to refine and clarify what I've given you here, as well as potential new paths forward. Unfortunately, what I've given you has no beginning, middle, or end, and is just the first 20ish pages (about 40%) of my third dissertation chapter, though I did end the piece with a rough outline of where I currently see this chapter proceeding.  


My dissertation, "Writing Under Duress: Trauma and Repetition in Early England (1070-1270)" is primarily focused on the period of English literary history when the Normans/French ruled England and works at the intersection of postcolonial studies, trauma studies, and manuscript studies. In it, I treat trauma as a dynamic force that can be reconfigured as a tool of historical analysis for premodern texts while also exploring how trauma theory itself can be changed by the decentering agent of the premodern. Ch 1 focuses on the loss of land and the afterlife in late eleventh-century England, and how two small Old English homiliaries copied after the Conquest offer us a chance to refine the contemporary parameters of "testimony" as well as the traditional timeline of trauma (I presented a portion of this chapter at the recent SIMS symposium if you're interested in hearing about it!); Ch 2 (currently unwritten) will focus on the loss of English sovereign and trace the erasure of English forms of lament over 3 subsequent "editions" of the original Latin Vitæ Ædwardi Regis (1067): Osbert of Clare's version (1138), Ælred of Rievaulx's version (1161); and the Nun of Barking's French version (1170). Ch 3, the one you're reading for the seminar, represents a cleave in the dissertation project because its focus is 100 years after the Conquest of 1066, when the immediate and catastrophic violences have quieted but slower, everyday violences (like those surrounding language) are still very much present. The text I focus on is a late twelfth-century English translation of the Latin Gospels known as the Orrmulum, written by the Augustinian canon Orrm. Orrm's text is most well-known for his attempt to write English phonetically for the first time in English literary history, but he is also just an incredible author and storyteller, who spins out the Gospel narratives in all sorts of beautiful and strange directions. In this chapter, I explore the reasons for his phonetic spelling system, and how emergent forms of language buoyed by repetition can inform our understanding of slow trauma and of the continuous effects of colonialism. Its manuscript also has what some have called a "monstrous" presentation, and if you're curious why that is, just flip through the digitized manuscript


I am open to all kinds of feedback, but a few things I'm currently concerned about:

  • I like my distinction of repetition's effect and affect, but I'm not sure I am distinguishing enough (or if I even need to distinguish at all) between Orrm's intent and effect, and I feel like I'm losing my voice by the end of the "Orrmology" section/not making much sense.
  • Relatedly, I'm not sure my extended reading of the Annunciation scene does what I want it to do. It might need to be moved to the "Effect of Repetition" section, or removed altogether; I just think it's an incredibly weird and tense scene between Mary and Gabriel and I look forward to discussing it with everyone! 
  • While my focus is on the usefulness of repetition, ironically, I think I repeat myself too much when I'm trying to clarify what I consider to be a difficult concept, so any suggestions of how I might streamline some of my prose/ideas are very much welcome.
  • Title: Small thing, but I am very bad with titles, and the current title came from a much more dramatic draft where I outlined the linguistic wound created by linguistic colonialism and Orrm's attempt to stitch that wound closed through repetition that has now been chucked.

Thanks again for reading!

 The paper can be found here: Alternatively, you can email me to request an electronic copy.