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[Virtual] Scholars@Hallwalls: Randy Schiff, “Catastrophic Companionship: General Systems Theory, the General Prologue, and the Collapsing Canterbury Tales”

November 13 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Join us for a virtual edition of our Faculty Fellows talks! This lecture series brings current UB humanities research out into the community.

Exploring general systems theory, Randy argues that Canterbury Tales criticism both benefits from, and enriches, environmental studies.  Showing that Chaucer thinks systematically in fashioning his tale-telling contest, Randy compares his pilgrimage with sub-network interaction within an ecosystem. “Quiting”—the pilgrimage’s retaliatory economic principle—creates overexciting energy that dooms the company to collapse. Studying such a vibrant, but unsustainable system helps us recognize our own social systems’ destructive feedback loops.

Randy researches Middle English literature and culture, with special interests in romance, Old French, nationalism, ethnicity, and ecocriticism. The author of Revivalist Fantasy: Alliterative Verse and Nationalist History and the co-editor of The Politics of Ecology: Life, Land, and Law in Medieval Britain, he has published articles in Exemplaria, postmedieval, College Literature, and Speculum. An editor at the journal Exemplaria, he also co-organizes UB’s Environmental Humanities Research Workshop. Randy is currently preparing monographs on bioexceptionalism in medieval romance, and on Chaucerian systems theory, and is also translating portions of the Old French Crusade Cycle.

CLICK HERE to register for this event.

NEW! While we cannot provide complimentary wine and light fare in this time of virtual gatherings, we can provide a themed recommendation for each talk!

The Cranterbury Tale (a featured cocktail created by Randy Schiff)

2 parts gin (preferably Bombay)

1 part Elderflower liqueur (preferably St. Germain)

1 part pure Cranberry Juice

½ fresh-squeezed lime juice

1 part sparkling water (preferably San Pellegrino)

1 sprig of Rosemary (singed)

served with 3-4 ice cubes, preferably in a tumbler

Speaker’s Choice Food/Wine Pairing

Marcona almonds, castelvetrano olives, and manchego cheese, plus a good Italian wine from volcanic soil; I like Salice Salentino Cantele for this, but any good intense and earthy Italian wine with some dark berry backdrop.

paradise wine logoYou can find Salice Salentino Cantele at Paradise Wine (435 Rhode Island St.). Order online for curbside pick-up or home delivery.


November 13
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Humanities Institute