SPRING 2024 A.K. Smith Scholars Series Schedule

Cary Howie

“Romance, Fantasy, and Other Religious Experiences”

Weds, March 6th, 4:30pm- Reese Room, Smith House 

 Romance and fantasy are words that get a lot of mileage out of their ambiguity. After all, they name modern literary genres that owe a debt to medieval genres—think castles, think kisses—even as they name more basic, if no less ironic, ways of figuring desire: “a fine romance”; “a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby.” At their best (and maybe always) romance and fantasy exceed the very scripts they give us: we might come for the dragons (or the breeches) but we stay for something more. That “more” could, of course, be quantitative: more dragons, more breeches! But it could also, if we’re lucky, be the “more” that the world becomes, that the world is in fact revealed always to have been, if we look closely and generously enough—if, that is, we allow it to sweep us off our feet. To put this a little differently: if our world’s recurring problem is that it seems altogether disenchanted, how might we, as folks for whom reading and thinking and imagining matter, take up the challenge of re-enchanting that world? How might our romances and our fantasies (in every sense) make, in fact, a real as well as an imagined difference? As I try to live up to these questions, I can at least promise some promiscuous reading, anachronistic pleasure, queerness, and monks. 

Cary’s writing and teaching tend to put medieval literature into conversation with modern practices and preoccupations. In his classes he attempts to give students the freedom to explore aspects of their intellectual and embodied lives that are usually overlooked in more traditional academic settings. He is interested in breaking down familiar boundaries between academic and literary languages, as well as cultivating new ways of asking old questions, especially questions about the body and the soul, in the variously rich vocabularies of English, French, Italian and Latin. He is the author of essays on medieval gender and sexuality; on the difficulty of letting go; on meditation, mysticism, and saints’ lives; and on a range of authors from Rutebeuf to Dante, Marie de France to Shakespeare

Dixa Ramirez-D’Oleo

Weds, March 27th, 4:30pm- Reese Room, Smith House 

Matt Seybold

Weds, April 3rd, 4:30pm- Reese Room, Smith House 

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