I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Between papers: between medieval studies and medievalism

Poor neglected blog…

I’m just over half way through my trip, and have been struggling a bit to find the energy and spirit to blog.

Before I came away, I had to put together my application for the National Teaching Awards, and I talked a bit there about this blog, so I have been thinking of it a little as a teaching instrument. When you are a bit down, and you have to go into the classroom, you have to put all that aside and gather yourself up with the help of adrenaline. And that’s usually possible without too much trauma: I usually find I’m fine once I enter the room. But blogging doesn’t have the same immediacy, so there’s not been the same drive. I’ve also had goodly amounts of time on my own, so I’ve not needed the blog’s therapeutic charms. I’ve had very social bursts, but also lots of time walking around in the morning, and sitting in the library.

Anyway, I’m in the space between two conferences, back in London from my couple of days in Leeds, and setting out for Swansea two days from now. It’s still pretty chilly in London, though the sun was out this morning.

The Leeds trip was pretty good. I tried hard not to write a paper out, and did end up talking to my notes, rather than reading a script. So it felt very imperfect and ragged, but was probably no worse than a lecture from notes. I was talking about the blurry lines between medieval studies and medievalism, and tried to talk about the moment when Malory’s Guenevere falls down laughing at the tournament of Surluse, when Dinadin is brought into the court dressed as a woman, as a moment that challenges us to think about the different models of time and temporality in the medieval text, the medievalist text, and the way we think and talk about those things. As a means of bringing the two together — teaching the medieval, and re-enacting the medieval — I enacted this moment, literally falling to the ground in the middle of my paper, asking whether that was an act of medieval studies (demonstrating the play between realism and non-realism in the text) or of medievalist re-enactment. This stuff is so hard to think about, and the paper felt very much like work-in-progress. Completely terrifying to fall down like that, but also fun, too. The text says “and so did all that there were”, so I invited the audience to fall down too. They didn’t, of course, and Louise was right to say later that if I had been a real queen, they would have!

A highlight was meeting the redoubtable Eileen Joy (will do some links when I get home: too hard in transit) at Leeds. She made a great contribution to the discussion, that John took up later that day on the round table on medievalism. We had been talking about medievalism as play, and she reminded us that it was also a very serious business for folk like Bruce Holsinger, etc. So I’m trying to think a bit about this for the Swansea paper.

[Edit: part of this post has been removed by the author]

Anyway, the great highlight today was La Bohème at Covent Garden. On my friend Paul's advice, I treated myself to a glass of champagne and smoked salmon sandwiches, before climbing up to my seat. Not too bad, actually; right down the front of the top tier, which raked steeply up behind me, and pretty much in the centre. And it was beautiful. Wonderfully sung, especially the tenor; and surprisingly moving. I didn't think it would get to me, but I did shed a tear at poor old Mimi's death, and the difficult reversals of her love with Rudolpho. Sigh.


Eileen Joy said...

Stephanie: I found your talk [based on notes or not!] at Leeds really hung with me and affected me, partly because it had so much to say about issues BABEL has been wrestling with in its work and also about matters of how, in my own field of Old English studies, what is "real" medieval studies is very narrowly defined, indeed, and the costs [professionally and personally] for not bending under this stick can be high. In any case, you [and Tom and John G.] inspired a post at In The Middle:


I hope I got most of it right. I am not "redoubtable," am I? But thanks for saying so, anyway. Meeting you was definitely a high point for me [but too brief!].

Jeffrey Cohen said...

OK, you performed a swoon as part of your paper? That is more than I would ever dare as part of my own performance! How did the audience -- besides the redoubtable Eileen, who has already blogged about -- react?

RE: Maura's comments, they are likely from the same volume that my own "Weight of the Past" is going to appear in ... and she is writing her own essay on Post Historicism for it as well. I think it is going to be quite a piece, and more temporally complicated than that statement on medievalism.

This old world is a new world said...

Eileen, I love your summary of my paper. I often know what I think about bits of text; not always so confident about seeing the bigger patterns.

Jeffrey, it is indeed the same essay. I'm just going back to have another look at it now before I finish the NCS paper. Probably time to stop bristling about it now...

I guess it was a swoon: felt like more of a YouTube "people falling out of their chairs laughing" moment. One friend came and hugged me afterwards (putting me back together again?), but I think most people have kindly ignored it!

meli said...

Well it definitely ensured that everyone was paying attention! (Which they were anyway of course.)

I think it worked well in enacting a strange moment which, as you say, is rarely acknowledged either in academic scholarship or in popular representations (and hence embodying rather neatly the blurred spaces between the two, and crystallizing the slight discomfort which was emanating from some corners of the audience).

(too many long words there i think - sorry!)

Karl Steel said...

I wish I'd seen the swoon. Your post reminds me of two things: first, my Kzoo 2008, the Pete Beidler celebration session, where I heard the story about PB's 'foot mantel' argument. To demonstrate how a foot-mantel worn about someone's hips, large [i.e., 'loosely'], might work, he sprang to his feet, got on the top of the table, and pulled up his own foot mantel, sewn especially for the occasion.

Second, I'm reminded of the only time (yet) that I've seen La Boheme. There's the fellow who gives up his coat, and sings about it never bowing to anyone. We could, of course, talk about affect bound up in the costume, etc., but most striking for me is that the coat became 'pants' in my memory, such that La Boheme has just refused to be tragic in my memory: the thought of it always makes me laugh.

Eli said...

No doubt it is too late to make this comment, but I should say for the record that what was quoted above was from a *draft* essay, which will not be published in that form, and does not include that sentence--or indeed, any comment about medievalism at all. I certainly did not intend for the essay in that form to be published or circulated. One of the points I do make in the final version is that I think there's room for everyone to do the kind of work they would like to do, which is one reason I was not comfortable with the "response" format. Again, it's a shame that something I did not intend for circulation or publication has been posted on the web; had I known that it was going to be in the public view at that stage, I would have written it differently--indeed, as I now have. Maura

This old world is a new world said...

Yikes! Sincere apologies for this breach of etiquette, then. You're right to imply I should have checked before quoting. I had assumed your essay was in all but final form, and that it would be included in the volume as it was. I am very happy to delete or edit this post if you wish.

And I'm also glad to have the correction, as I had built in a response to this remark in the revisions to our essay! And there is now time to emend that.

It's tricky, isn't it? I love the idea of essays in a collection talking to each other, but the process of consultation and revision is then potentially endless.

I'm responding publically because this seems an interesting ethical issue for the blog, but am happy to continue discussion offline if you prefer.

Again, my apologies: the mistake was made in good faith.

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