Cord J. Whitaker is Assistant Professor in the English Department at Wellesley College. Whitaker has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, among others. Whitaker’s articles on medieval romance, religious conflict, and race have appeared in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology and the Yearbook of Langland Studies.
He recently edited a special issue of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies titled “Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages.” The collection builds on the growing number of studies that ask whether race matters to the Middle Ages by focusing instead on how race matters. Whitaker is currently writing a book titled Black Metaphors: Race, Religion, and Rhetoric in the Literature of Late Medieval England, from which comes his presentation “Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale and the Spiritual Side of Race.”
Race-ing the dragon: the Middle Ages, race and trippin’ into the future
I can trace my interest in chivalry and the Middle Ages to a dream I had when I was 5 years old. In a cartoon world with verdant green grass and a brilliant pink sky, I, dressed in glittering armor, chased down a giant green dragon. We ran past a gray stone castle reminiscent of those in Mario Brothers and He-Man. The brilliant colors are what I recall most about the dream, and why, I believe, the dream has remained firmly lodged in my memory. What I know now did not occur to me then: that color of a different sort meant that I should not have had that dream. Or, at the very least, that I should have dismissed the childhood dream as nothing more than exactly that. Little black boys from Philadelphia are not supposed to concern themselves with knights and ladies.—Cord Whitaker