[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.
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