My first day at the 42nd International Medieval Congress (at Kalamazoo) reminds me of why this is the best large conference I know. I only got to attend two sessions (I missed the first), but the day was still full and fruitful. For the stuff that others would be interested in knowing:
If you are interested in things medieval, the book exhibition hall is heavenly, and it is growing bigger every year. Even back when I was a grad student it didn’t quite fill the cafeteria, but now has sprawled out into other wings of the building. Some book sellers even have their own rooms to themselves. If you’ve never been, imagine this -- basically every single book in print having to do with anything medieval, and lots of books not in print. Add to that the various sellers of other medievalia: amber jewelry, coffee mugs, manuscripts, music (on manuscript and on CD), t-shirts, computer applications, pens, children’s books, toys -- it’s all there, and deeply discounted. I probably spend more money on books at the K’zoo book hall than I do the entire rest of the year. It would be worth coming if only to shop.
Then there are the sessions. Let me give an example from today*: Katie Lynch, a grad student at University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented a paper entitled, “With** Dweorh: A Union of Text and Voice.” It was a very good paper in which she compared the metrical version of the charm “Against a Dwarf” to the two prose versions found in the Lacnunga manuscript. The conclusion she came to (that it is probably a remedy for fever) interested me less than the other issues raised by the paper -- questions about why some fevers are just “fever,” and others are caused by a dwarf, about the connections between the Seven Sleepers and fever, about issues of orality/ textuality in writing words vs. saying them, issues of interpreting individual letters in their manuscript context, etc. I hope she publishes it.
Of course, hers wasn’t the only good paper. Another grad student from U of W-Madison (Brian O‘Camb) gave a very convincing paper arguing that Athelwold’s translation of the Benedictine Rule is echoed in the Exeter Book Maxims, Natalie Grinnell voiced a healthy skepticism for the efficacy of using blogs as teaching tools (a skepticism that I characterize as “healthy” because I share it), and the session on Social Software delved into important tensions between public and private spaces (and students’ perceptions thereof).
Aside from the shopping and sessions is the socializing. Already, only one day into it, I had a nice lunch with Kathryn Laity where we discussed publishing our book, I ran into a lot of old friends by chance, and had a wonderful dinner with the Arthurian popular culture types and the folks from McFarland publishing. My only disappointment from the dinner is that I was too far down the table to hear Kevin Harty and Don Hoffman banter -- something that I know from past experience should not be missed.
Anyway, tomorrow is another day. The day will start with the blogger get-together, my own roundtable (3:30 at Sangren 2210, for those planning to come), and will end with a private dinner (the location of which I have already forgotten). In between doing all those things I’ll be attending sessions and buying books. It ought to be a great day.
*I should really have let her know that I might blog about her presentation, but I forgot to. Since I’m only saying nice things, though, I hope she doesn’t mind.
**For some reason I can’t get the laptop to give me the Old English font correctly, so I’m editing out any Anglo-Saxon special characters.