Benjamin A. Saltzman

Benjamin A. Saltzman
Assistant Professor
  • Department of English
Walker 518
saltzman@uchicago.edu

I research and teach the literature and culture of early medieval England, focusing on texts written in Old English and Anglo-Latin roughly between the seventh century and the eleventh. My work focuses on the relationship between textuality and religious/social practices in medieval law and monastic life, with particular attention to issues of paleography, the cultural implications of literature, and critical theory.

I am currently finishing a book entitled Bonds of Secrecy: The Cultural and Literary Mechanics of Concealment in Early Medieval England, which investigates the tensions between the medieval Christian belief in divine omniscience and the social experience of secrecy. The book argues that as these tensions manifested in the legal culture and monastic life of Anglo-Saxon England they profoundly shaped the practices of literary interpretation in the process. Some of the larger methodological questions provoked by the book are explored in a forthcoming PMLA article: "Secrecy and the Hermeneutic Potential in Beowulf." I have also written on the psychology of "forgetting one's self" in an article recently published in Anglo-Saxon England. And my study of friendship in late Anglo-Saxon monasticism appeared in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies in 2011, receiving an honorable mention from the International Society of Anglo- Saxonists for Best Article in the field.

I am now also beginning work on a new project about early medieval perception and experience, which I envision as two complementary books. The first investigates literary representations of sin and the witnessing of evil, asking how early medieval literature visually mediates encounters with violence and atrocity. The second book, by pleasant contrast, will be about sonic and poetic experiences of joy.

I also research and teach courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century medievalism (including the reception of medieval literature and the disciplinary history of Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Studies). I have published on these topics in Victorian Poetry and postmedieval, and I am currently editing a collection of essays with R. D. Perry on the influential group of intellectuals, such as Erich Auerbach and Hannah Arendt, whose scholarship on the Middle Ages emerged and flourished in the years after WWII and has had an enduring effect on the shape of Medieval Studies today as well as numerous other fields of study.

I am on leave for the 2017-2018 academic year with a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Selected Publications

  • "Secrecy and the Hermeneutic Potential in Beowulf," PMLA (forthcoming): Download pre-publication version.
  • "The Friar, the Summoner, and their Techniques of Erasure," The Chaucer Review (forthcoming): Download pre-publication version.
  • "Towards the Middle Ages to Come: The Temporalities of Walking with W. Morris, H. Adams, and Especially H. D. Thoreau," postmedieval 5.2 (2014): Download the Article and the Abstract.
  • "The Mind, Perception and the Reflexivity of Forgetting in Alfred's Pastoral Care," Anglo-Saxon England 42 (2013): 147-82. Download the Article and the Abstract.
  • "William Morris's 'Golden Wings' as a Poetic Response to the 'Delicate Sentiment' of Tennyson's 'Mariana,'" Victorian Poetry 49.3 (2011): 285-99. Download the Article.
  • "Writing Friendship, Mourning the Friend in Late Anglo-Saxon Rules of Confraternity," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 41.2 (2011): 251-91. Download the Article and the Abstract. Best Article Prize, Honorable Mention, International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (2013).
  • "Ut hkskdkxt: Early Medieval Cryptography, Textual Errors, and Scribal Agency," Speculum (forthcoming, 2019): Download: pre-publication version