Conference blogging. Meant to do this over the last week, but am now going to do it in several posts. This is the first. Scroll up for more.
Someone said to me over coffee during this recent ANZAMEMS (Aust and NZ assoc. for med. and early mod. studies) conference that it was becoming the third in the series of the big three. How does that sound? Leeds/Kalamazoo/ANZAMEMS?
A couple of riders, though. This analogy would work only for medievalists: ANZAMEMS has a much broader historical range, though is similarly multi-disciplinary. Second, ANZAMEMS is much smaller: about 190 papers over nearly five days. Third, as a society, not a place, ANZAMEMS offers a range of great locations in Australia and New Zealand. This is absolutely a plus, of course. I'm on my way back from Hobart, and am sitting in the Qantas club, having come out to the airport early with Paul and Joel, who came down for the weekend, and were booked on an early flight so Joel could get to school on time (though having got up at 4.15, he didn't look, 30 minutes ago, as if it was going to be his most productive day).
But it used to be that the only international visitors to ANZAMEMS were the plenary speakers we fly in. This is no longer the case. ANZAMEMS is also wonderfully friendly to postgrads, and reminds me of NCS in its mixture of absolute seriousness and its collegiality. It is also truly interdisciplinary, and over the years, the sometimes brusque encounters between historians and literary critics have given way to much more respectful engagements. Sometimes it isn't even possible to tell.
Like NCS, too, ANZAMEMS now has a respectable medievalism thread. A highlight this time was hearing Kim Wilkins, well-known fantasy and horror writer, who is also Dr Kim Wilkins, lecturer at UQ, give a wonderfully reasoned account of Australian adult medievalist fantasy writing.
My own paper was a discussion of Bruce Holsinger's The Premodern Condition. Perhaps I'll post that paper here too.
Plenary speakers of greatest interest to this blog were probably Ruth Evans and Mary Carruthers. Ruth spoke about Freud and Lacan and Chaucer's dream theory, and Mary developed more of her work on the arts of memory. Both were model conference participants, giving tightly argued, original papers, and attending session after session, valiantly fighting jetlag and contributing to debates.
It is also a great occasion for catching up with friends and colleagues, though given the threat to medieval studies at the University of Tasmania, and the threat to the job of another medieval scholar at the University of Melbourne, the overall mood was less than joyous.
I'm also heading back to a meeting where we will have to discuss the way we teach Old English in the new Melbourne model. More curriculum reform. Sigh.