Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kalamazoo 2012

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted here.  I've always enjoyed blogging, a way to express some thoughts, gather some thoughts, outline the beginnings of future research, or just to exchange ideas with others through blog posts and comments that can go further than discussions via email.  By way of ruminating on my absence, I confess that I almost gave up blogging.  Last year's kerfluffle left such a bad taste in my mouth, and I had begun so many responses over the ensuing months, that I just did not want to return here and post.  Not that there would have been many posts: as chair of my department dealing with all the thrilling things going on at my university this past year, Especially last fall, all the meetings and new preps kept me swamped.  Still, I composed posts, and those posts responded in various ways to last year's fun, and increasingly left a bad, bad taste in my mouth and made me want to give up blogging altogether. Hey, I know myself; I called this The Ruminate for a reason: I do ruminate on things, sometimes for eons.

Honestly, what has redeemed the whole process for me was Kalamazoo 2012.  I in fact dreaded attending this year.  But as it turned out, it was a fabulous time and after a successful and jam packed Congress, I decided to stop ruminating on last year and my colleagues elseblog, in spite of some weirdness stemming from last year's dust up occurring at this year's event.

So that said, here's my report for Kalamazoo 2012.  This year, I feel old.  I feel old because now I have had the pleasure of bringing one of my very own graduate students to her first International Congress on Medieval Studies. That was amusing though.  It was a pleasure both to bring her into my networks, but also watch as she did her own networking, building relationships that will become part of her professional life henceforth.  That was fun.  And thank God she was there to do the drive home!  I was exhausted!

Anyway, we actually left Bemidji on Tuesday.  I wanted to be able to get to Kalamazoo at about dinner time on Wednesday, so that meant either driving part way on Tuesday or leaving at an ungodly early hour on Wednesday.   Not being a grand Sadly, I was unable to get a lot of errands done that Monday and Tuesday before leaving, so I was bearded this year.  Usually the beard comes off before the trek to the southern climes of southern Michigan.  But other than ungodly traffic through Chicago, the road trip was uneventful. 

We arrived a little after 7 Eastern time, immediately ran into Yvette Kisor and Lynne Wollstadt.  Then it was off to Bilbo's where Yvette, Lynne, Bruce Gilchrist, Bill Schipper, and Chris Vaccaro.  Even in the "new digs," and let's face it, the Stadium Drive location will always be the new digs for us old timers, the pizza and hopped beverages were as good as ever, but the company even better.  As we all know, the great thing about the Kalamazoo conference is the web and weft of conversation that weaves personal and professional of many hues into a delightful evening.  Other medievalists were spotted in the process and stopped to say hello.

Thursday morning dawned bright and clear and it looked like the weather was going to cooperate.  First up was Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture meeting, catching up on the progress of the project.  Happily all volumes are spoken for.  I myself intend to make some significant SASLC progress this year.

I spent the first session in...where else?...the exhibit hall with Lyla going over the books.  I bought more this year than I have in the past.  This professor gig where I get to buy books and be reimbursed for them is capital.  But it was also nice to help Lyla furnish her own academic library, something that I sometimes wish my own advisers had taken more interest in when I was a wee grad student.  Then it was off to lunch at the Mediterranean place up on Main.  Delicious food, but the waitress was slower than molasses.  Bill Schipper came with us on that trip.  Bill is always a great guy to talk to.  I've really appreciated him over the years.

Thursday afternoon both of my sessions were held.  The first, A Reckoning: Translation as Culture Change and Culture Clash I co-sponsored with Mary Ramsey.  Sadly Mary didn't make the session, nor did the third speaker.  Jonathan Davis-Secord read an interesting paper on how Old English writers handle sources, talking a bit about glossing, but also just sources in general.  I'm not sure he answer his question though: "Hiding or Highlighting"?  Honestly, the practice is so varied even among the works of the same author, that trying to say anything definitive is difficult.  Part of it is surely human nature: we're not always aware that we are quoting someone or something we've read. But anyway, it was an interesting paper. Bruce Gilchrist also "read" on the Heliand, a really cool observation of how the Heliand author makes use of the "light" in the Greek text of the Transfiguration scenes in the gospels that are not present in the Latin text, so some cool stuff.

The second session was one I co-sponsored with Kathie Meyer who retired at BSU last year.  But we did a session on Beowulf and the Heliand in Cross Cultural Perspective.  We received three solid submissions.  And as life turns out, neither my co-sponsor nor the third speaker turned out for this one either.  So we had two papers and a pretty large audience.  Tom Bredehoft read on what comparative meter studies. particularly the Heliand, can tell us about the dating of Old English poetry.  Much of this is now covered in his recent works. but he made an argument (if I now am remembering with any accuracy) that traced various changes in the Germanic tradition, changes in OE poetic practices, and concluded that where these changes are not shared suggests lack of influence, and at some points we can point to influence (such as the Alfredian period and immediately after) of OS on OE.  In the end, Tom admitted that his method hadn't really changed the traditional dates of any of the poems in the Anglo-Saxon corpus, but this is one method by which they might be dated.  The second paper by Breann Leake dealt with concept of Wyrd, Fate, in the Heliand, the Wyrd of God.  I'm hoping to put together a volume of essays on comparative studies of OS, OE, and OHG and we have 3 solid papers to begin.

Post session was a brief run through the exhibit hall, they were already out of "wine" when I got there, but that was ok since I was heading off to the Blogger Meet-Up.  It was going to be a brief visit as I had dinner plans with old friends; I kept it loose for dinner 6-6:30, but in the end it was a meet-up at 5:30 with some members of my party concerned about getting a seat anywhere for dinner if we delayed....and since I was the only reason to delay because of the Blogger Meet-Up the pressure was on to keep it short.  So it was really an unfortunate dash through the room, to say hello to Vaulting and Vellum, shake hands with Steve Muhlberger, exchange a few quick words with Curt Emanuel, hug the incredible ADM, and wave to Elizabeth Carnell and then bug out rudely to whisk us off to dinner.

Dinner was my annual visit to the Olde Penninsula, an old haunt from K'zoo days that I remain rather fond of; any place with good burgers and good beer is pretty good in my book.  Present were Judy Krane-Calvert, Dot Porter and son, Mel Harris Eichbauer, Lyla (poor kid), and Sarah Sprouse.  The last in the group is a newly minted MA looking for a PhD program, probably in the DC area...more importantly though, she is the Assistant to the Editor (me) of The Heroic Age.  SO we gathered her up for dinner.

Since we had dinner so early and everyone had things to do and places to go, after dropping everyone off Lyla and I were at loose ends, so we ended up driving around town for a bit before finally heading back to change into reception garb and attend.  Naturally a grand time was had, how could we not with such a great crowd?

Friday morning was a beautiful one, and even better post coffee.  First session Lyla and I headed up to Schneider to take in Yvette Kisor's paper in a session sponsored by Shannon Godlove Words and Deeds in ASE.  Yvette read on the relationship of words and deeds and how that related to gender, looking in particular at Judith and Juliana.  I won't say much more about this one as I have to quote it in a paper underway for publication.  This was followed by a paper on Becoming a Man in OE Precepts.  I confess that I don't recall much about this one.  I recall that I didn't know this text and was interested to find out that the Precepts had a section on becoming a man, much like the Biblical proverbs and other sapiental traditions.  But I truly don't recall much else (as I get older I find that I remember less, sadly, but am very poor at taking notes post-grad school).  The last paper of the session was delivered by Jill Hamilton-Clements "Death and Salvation in the Runic Signatures of Cynewulf".  The central argument here was that the puzzle pieces of the runic letters are a form, a way that the author signifies death, a state of brokenness in need of holy healing, so that the requests for prayers for his soul and salvation in which the signatures are embedded are the poet's salvation, making the name whole in prayer if you will.  It was really quite an intriguing and well done paper and I wish I'd have thought of it!  I hope she publishes with me or at least gets it out there soon.

There was a pretty decent crowd at this one.  I was able to say hello to Brandon Hawk, an up and comer and all round v smart chap, but I don't think he recognized me with the beard of omens that I was sporting for the weekend.  I was also able to exchange greetings with David di Tucci, sadly the only time he and I had a chance to exchange the news the entire weekend.  David and Michael Fletcher are working on a project for HA that I'm excited about, so hopefully mentioning however obliquely here will help move this forward.

I lost my program somewhere with all the people I was meeting up with and eating with in I had to buy a new one.  Fortunately I had dispersed my cell number widely and folk now know how to use text messaging enabling me to rebuild the schedule.  Still, there were burps.  Friday lunch was one such.   After the session, Lyla, Yvette, and Lynn decided to go to lunch.  While on our way to check in with others down the hill, Deanna Forsman texted about our scheduled lunch.  So, lunch became a moderate size group of the five of us.  We went to Food Dance, I hadn't made it to Food Dance since they moved, some years ago now, so it was good to be able to eat there.  This is really one of my favorite places to eat of all the places in all of cities I've lived.  Anyway, as it happened, Deanna and I sat on one side of our booth and talked about matters of The Heroic Age, the other three sat on the other side of the booth and chatted....well I don't know about what, I was busy talking about HA stuff.  Still, grand company, good food, and the chance to talk about things medieval.

 Post lunch I went to my first ever Tolkien session!  I know, you must be shaking your head that I, Tolkienista, big mouth, opionated Tolkien fan, had never been to a K'zoo Tolkien session.  But off we went...well some of us.  Lyla had a session she wanted to get to, Lynne was off to nap, Deanna was presiding a it was Yvette and I off to the Tolkien session on Sigurd and Guthrun.  I was still undecided as there were A-S sessions and such at the same time.  But I was really going to the session because of Merlin DeTardo.  Merlin is one of the nicest, kindest, and most intelligent human beings I have ever met.  He's a Tolkienist and for some reason has seen fit to come to several of my papers over the years.  Merlin rarely reads.  I was told that this was his first paper, though in the talk he said it was his second.  Nonetheless, the point is that this was a rare opportunity to see Merlin in action so I'd better take it.

Naturally we were a few minutes late, so I waited until the first speaker was done before finding a seat, so I missed that paper.  The second of the session dealt with....I don't know, the post lunch sleepies was catching up and I struggled.  This is no reflection on the speaker to whom I apologize, it is simply a reflection on me.  By the third paper I was doing better, a few well placed pinches, oxygenating, etc did the trick.  This paper was meant to be a joint project and something went awry and it isn't.  In any case, though not fighting the sleep, I had a hard time following the paper.  So I was grateful when Merlin started. Essentially, Merlin did a "source critical" thing on Tolkien's Sigurd and Guthrun, and it was good, so very good.  I hope he writes it up to publish soon!  But as some know, I am a sucker for source criticism and there is simply too little good source criticism on Tolkien (not none, too little).

I have some opinions about things Digital.  So at 3:30 session I attended the Sustainability session sponsored by Digital Medievalist.  It was an interesting discussion and somewhat enlightening in what grant organizations are asking for: the contradictory requirements that the data be given away free but that the project also have a sustainability plan, which if the data is being given away free takes away the primary way a project can be sustained long term.  In any case, the importance of sustainable projects that will still work 20 years from now is vitally important. As interesting as this session was, though, it meant missing Bill Schipper's presentation in another session about some new Hrabanus mss finds, in fact this was breaking news as Bill was reporting on three new finds and had the day of his paper found out that a fourth had been found.  I'm sad to have missed this one.

Friday night is the usual Anglo-Saxonists dinner.  I signed up this year, but decided to start my own tradition.  So I made reservations for 10 at a nice restaurant and gathered Yvette, Bruce Gilchrist, Lyla, Chris Vaccaro, Scott Nokes, Sarah McCann, Ken Coyne, and a couple of others had a delightful time--not too large a group, not too small, and a mix of people who don't usually come together at the same time and place.  The only problem was the younguns sat at one end and us oldsters at the other, we should have mixed it up a bit more to make a less bifurcated discussion.  Still, a grand time.
Then off to reception land.

Saturday dawned and while there were some good sessions I really should have gone to, I didn't and spent more time in the book hall.  I wanted to get all the way through this year and was a bit weary.  So I had an enjoyable morning amongst the book stalls.  *SIGH*  T'were loverly.   Lunch time came and Lyla was off to the De Re Militaria and I was meeting up with Shannon Ambrose for lunch at the Indian place up the hill.  Love that buffet.  It was grand to see Shannon, it had actually been several years.  Shannon is doing some good Hiberno-Latin work, so I'm keeping an eye on her.

Saturday afternoon was the hours of Bede for me.  In the first Bede session that I attended (not the first Bede session, mind you) presided over by Sharon Rowley whose book on the OE Bede I'd just purchased, I heard three papers. Well, three were scheduled.  One didn't show up.  Sadly it was one I wanted to hear as in a paper I have in prep I take that author's position to task so I was interested to hear the author on a related topic.  The next paper was by Conor O'Brien Bede and His Enemies, The Letter to Ecgbert.  I confess again that I remember little about this paper; especially since Thacker's article arguing for Bede the reformer that the Letter to Ecgbert is directed at "Bede's enemies" though enemy might be too strong a word.  As I recall this paper, while building on this, it didn't really further my understanding any.  That's not to say it was not a good paper, well delivered, and solid research contraire.  All of those things were true.  But it didn't really further my own research or understanding of 8th century Northumbria.  The last paper in this session was by Walter Goffart, Bede as Deliberate Historian.  The evening before Sarah McCann, who works on Bede, wondered if Goffart still held the opinions he did in Narrators of Barbarian History.  This paper certainly answered that question beyond any doubt.  Yep, he sure does: the paper reiterated that position in spades, Bede chose his material for the HE carefully and left a lot about Wilfrid in particular completely out of his tale.  The problem I've always had with Goffart's argument is that it privileges a piece of hagiography that he takes as telling the truth about Wilfrid over a work of historiography that when we can verify it independently is fairly sound.  This isn't to say that Bede isn't a "deliberate historian" or doesn't have a definite point of view in the HE; it just seems to me that if one is going to accuse Bede of leaving material about Wilfrid out, we should have a reasonable level of confidence that Stephanus is actually relating the truth about Wilfrid, and that Bede's deliberate choices are not leaving out things that make Wilfrid look good, but things Bede knows didn't happen, or didn't happen in the way that Stephanus says.  Bede is always a deliberate writer and judicious in his choices from his sources, so the question becomes why he chose this element but not that one; I'm not yet convinced that that issue has been resolved.  For one thing, by the time Bede is writing the HE, Wilfrid's been dead 20 years, and Stephanus' vita is almost that old.  So the question is, how much anti-Wilfridian sentiment remains, and how much Wilfridian support and can we prove it since Bede is largely our only source?

The second Bede session I attended was up the hill of course.  This one was presided over by old friend Josh Westgard.  Gernot Wieland was up first on Bede's comments regarding the indolence, the laziness, of his countrymen.  Wieland  looked at a statement by Bede regarding  his fellow countrymen being "indolent"; through some careful and creative reading Wieland argued that rather than "indolente" in the text, it should be read as in in dolente....a much different meaning (in pain rather than lazy) and a better fit in the context.  Next came a paper on peripherality in Bede, Bede's knowledge of "being on the edge".  This one needed more work, but was fine as far as it went.  Last came Sarah McCann who read on a scholar's comment about something being "a very Irish thing to do" demonstrating that it wasn't very Irish and very Anglo-Saxon.  The last scheduled paper didn't show.

Dinner this evening was with Thea Cervone, Asa Mittman, Lyla, Mary Leech and a new acquaintance that I am embarrassed enough to admit not to recall the name though I recall the face!  But we headed down to London Grill for dinner (Lamb Curry here) and the annual obligatory STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING!!!  OMG!! And I have to say this expat kitchen in Kalamazoo makes a fantastic STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING!!!  SO GOOD.  And another evening spent in the company of delightful people. 

Our dinner companions headed off to Dark Shadows movie while Lyla and I headed back to change and have a little down time before heading up the hill to the St. Louis reception.  The latter was a much quieter affair than in years past, smaller crowd, wetter and colder evening...but new friends were made nonetheless, Christian McGuire of Augsburg, and Jon Porter at Butler.  Then of course is the dance....I spent a good deal of it standing in one place talking to various people who came by.  So it was actually a good two plus hours in before I actually danced.  I spent most of my dance time with Chris Vaccaro, Yvette, Lynn, Bruce, Merlin DeTardon, and Jane Chance whilst grad student Lyla was off with her Irish acquaintances dancing away.  As usual, t'was a good time.  Post dance, I, since I had a van, dropped some people off at various locations, a few of us went down to Bruce Gilchrist's digs, a little B&B on the other side of the Kalamazoo College campus, and had a nice chat.  I discovered that Yvette had also majored in Greek!  I was nonplussed at that, I didn't know anyone else that crazy.

I also have the best of intentions to make it to at least one Sunday morning session.  Especially since the last several years the "new voices" session of SASLC has been on Sunday morns.  But alas, as usual I didn't make it.   And there were some good paper titles that I was interested in too.  But I needed coffee, and I got up late, and so I decided to finish the book room, and then one conversation led to another and I missed the second morning session, so darn I had to go spend money at the UT booth for the sale books. 

After packing up and checking out, Lyla and I went and ended the congress where it began: pizza at Bilbos.  It was about 2 o'clock when we pulled out of K'zoo and we wanted to get back so we drove all the way through, and I spent most of the next three weeks napping.

I don't know what the official numbers were.  Lisa Carnell told me that as of Wed going in they had about as many pre-registers as the year before.  But a lot of people weren't there this year; others were there that I encountered only briefly (ADM, Curt Emanuel, David di Tucci, Paul Szarmach, Bridgette Slavin) and others that I know were there whom I did not see at all (Paul Gans, Rhonda McDaniel, Heather Flowers) and fewer new contacts this year than in years past.  Among the good things to come out of the conference though will be some good things for Heroic Age, some good opportunities for BSU students, and my thesis advisee began the process of professionalizing and comported herself well.  So another successful Congress down and ready to think about next year.