Lorraine K. Stock Wins 2011 Bonnie Wheeler Fellowship

Lorraine Kochanske Stock, Associate Professor of English (University of Houston, Texas), is the winner of the 2011 Bonnie Wheeler Fellowship, the inaugural fellowship in the series.

Lorraine Stock

The Bonnie Wheeler Fellowships are designed to help women medievalists who are close to completing a significant work of research that will fulfill a professional promotion requirement. The 2009 MLA Report, “Standing Still: The Associate Professor Survey,” indicates that women are much more likely than men to “stand still” in the course of their academic career and to be “caught in the middle” of the promotion ladder. The Bonnie Wheeler Fellowships aim at placing many more women scholars at the top scholarly tier.

Professor Stock earned her Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1975. She won the UH Teaching Excellence Award in 1980 and 1996 and the HFAC College “Masterteacher” Award in 1995. A former president of SEMA (South Eastern Medieval Association), she is an elected member of the MLA’s executive committee in the Division on Middle English Language and Literature, excluding Chaucer. She is the author of many scholarly articles and book chapters.

The book-length project for which Professor Stock has been awarded the Bonnie Wheeler Fellowship is entitled “The Medieval Wild Man: Primitivism and Civilization in Medieval Culture.” Paradigm-shifting and far-ranging in scope, it is under contract with Palgrave-Macmillan Press for publication in the “New Middle Ages Series.”

Cultural Primitivism registers the discontent of the civilized with civilization and proclaims that a simpler life, usually seen as a former or “golden” age, is desirable. Stock’s interdisciplinary project disputes the scholarly model posited by Richard Bernheimer in Wild Men in the Middle Ages, which traces the emergence of the competing cultural concepts of “civility” and “primitivism” in Western Europe to a turning point in the late fourteenth century. Using the evidence of literary texts and visual images from the twelfth through sixteenth centuries, she traces the trajectory of the appearance of and developing medieval attitudes toward the mythic “Wild People”--an example of the “Monstrous Races” and a subspecies categorized somewhere between human and beast--whose “wildness” contributed an antithesis necessary for the West’s developing notion of “civilization.” Rather than endorse the received scholarly model of evolutionary “progress” from the negative homme sauvage to the positive “noble savage,” Stock demonstrates instead Europe’s continuous ambivalence about the binary of “nature” versus “culture,” as expressed in their love/hate relationship with the Wild Man and related figures.

An introductory chapter analyzes the discourse of Primitivism, the medieval construction of the Wild Man and related figures of wildness, the literary treatment of “natural” and “civilized” space, and the antithetical social dyad of “vilain” and “cortois.” Subsequent individual chapters treat how Wild Man characters from the twelfth through sixteenth centuries demonstrate Europe’s ambivalence about wildness and civilization. Treated texts and topics include: Marie de France's twelfth-century Breton Lai Bisclavret and other medieval werewolf narratives; Chr├ętien de Troyes's twelfth-century romance Yvain; the Wild Man character Dangiers in the thirteenth-century allegory, Roman de la Rose and the figure of Merlin as a Wild Man in the thirteenth-century French romance, Roman de Silence; the treatment of natural and civilized space in Chaucer’s fourteenth-century Book of the Duchess and his version of the Wild People in his late lyric, “The Former Age”; ambivalent primitivism and Bremo the Wild Man figure in the 1590 play Mucedorus.

In addition to textual analysis, the argument is supported by discussion of visual images of the Wild Man in various media of late medieval material culture: tapestries; manuscript miniatures; woodcuts, metalwork; ecclesiastical sculpture.

A special feature of the Bonnie Wheeler Fellowships is the designation of a mentor, who is responsible for reading the work-in-progress of the fellow and for offering feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement. An expert on medieval French and Italian romance and on the Edenic imagination, Professor F. Regina Psaki, Giustina Family Professor of Italian Language and Literature in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon, has agreed to serve as mentor to Professor Stock.