Attending a Babel sponsored session at a Medieval Studies conference is like being thrown into a literary episode of What Not to Wear. Here, Medieval Studies is forced to view itself in the dreaded 360˚ mirror, and taken to task for appearing bland and faded in the literary world. The beauty of medieval literature is being hidden beneath layers of (for lack of a better term) tradition--frozen in the era of its glory days, hardly recognizing the dated fabric and blue eye-shadow of literary convention.
Enter the Babel Working Group--a consortium of "unconventional" scholars who are Modern thinkers trapped in Medieval bodies. Their ideas are fashion-forward, transforming fellow medievalists one conference paper at a time. Dull starchy ideas are frowned upon, and sometimes, people are forced to abandon these to the dust bin. Tough medicine? Perhaps, but it is all done with love for the field of Medieval Studies and wanting their profession to have a better image in the world of literature.
So, what make-over advice does the group deliver?
-wear your old ideas anymore
-wear other literary eras' theories
-be afraid to try on new ideas
-skimp on quality
-take a good look in the 360˚ mirror
-shop in new stores and try on new ideas
-mix and match Pre-Modern and Modern
-play up the assets of Medieval Studies
-add texture and variety to create a new kind of depth
The fashion victims of the What Not to Wear t.v. show, never see the need for change at the beginning of the episode, and require much guidance and convincing. But in the end, the results are refreshing, if not stunning, and the reformed fashion victims embrace the new image. It seems to me, that this is what will happen to Medieval Studies, following the lead of the Babel Working Group.