Category Archives: Kalamazoo

CFP, International Medieval Congress 2016 – “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job”

MassMedieval is at it again, organizing for the International Congress. Building off the success of last year’s roundtable, for the 2016 Congress, our topic is a sequel “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.”

The professional reality is that many of us are at institutions at which we are the “lone medievalist,” without colleagues who share our areas of expertise and interest. In most cases, a department will hire only a single medieval specialist – and may be hard-pressed to convince administrations or hiring committees to approve even that one. While the advent of digital technologies has brought us the possibility of closer contact and greater collaboration with our fellow medievalists, our resource access, teaching opportunities, tenure cases, and other facets of our professional lives can be affected by our lack of numbers and by questions about the nature and value of what we do. In order to navigate these realities, we should be drawing on our collective experience.

At the 2015 International Medieval Congress, we hosted a roundtable entitled “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist.” It was exceptionally well-attended and various members of the audience raised issues and suggestions that indicated the conversation had only just begun. For this next roundtable, we would like to extend this conversation. This roundtable, as the title suggests, will collect panelists who can provide suggestions and ideas for professional engagement, curriculum planning, and reappointment and tenure cases as the “lone medievalist” in a department or institution. Our intention is that this roundtable will not be a forum simply for bewailing the state of medieval studies in small institutions. Indeed, we anticipate that it will be an opportunity for camaraderie, suggestions, and advice. We intend it to be very forward-thinking and revitalizing as well as helpful to those of us in these positions. It is also a forum for gathering the contact information in order to build a “lone medievalist” support group.

If you’d like to take part in this important conversation, please e-mail Kisha at by September 15. Thanks!


Filed under Call for Papers, Conferences, Kalamazoo, Lone Medievalist, Uncategorized

Kalamazoo 2014: MassMedieval Roundtable – “Digital Life of Twenty-First-Century Medieval Studies”

I know that I promised a final blog post about the last day of KZoo, specifically MassMedieval’s roundtable, “Medievalists and the Social Media Pilgrimage: The Digital Life of Twenty-First-Century Medieval Studies,” featuring  John; Peter Konieczny, Medievalists.netBrandon W. Hawk, University of Connecticut; Andrew M. Pfrenger, Kent State University–Salem; Joshua R. Eyler, Rice University; and M. Wendy Hennequin, Tennessee State University. Unfortunately, I simply haven’t had the time! To make up for my lapse, I decided, in lieu of a traditional post and in the spirit of the subject of the roundtable itself, to create a Storify of the Tweets from the session, which gives a fairly complete summary of the discussions. Take a look! –Kisha

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Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo, Technology

Guest Post – Jonathan Hsy: & (Presented at ICMS 2014)

MassMedieval is proud to present a second surprise! Jonathan Hsy was a panelist on the same Babel punctuation session at ICMS 2014 referenced in my previous post and in the guest post by Josh Eyler. After reading these posts (and publicizing them widely), Jonathan has also offered us the full text of his presentation on the ampersand (&). We are very grateful for this continued generosity, and we hope our readers are enjoying this series of posts as much as we are.

Jonathan Hsy is Associate Professor of English at George Washington University, and his research and teaching interests span the fields of translation studies and disability theory. His first book, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature (Ohio State University Press, 2013) investigates the work of polyglot urban writers across the late medieval and early Tudor eras. His current book project, Disability and Life Writing: Authorship as Advocacy, Then and Now, explores writing by medieval authors who self-identify as blind or deaf. Hsy is also the founding Co-Director (with Alexa Huang) of the GW Digital Humanities Institute, and he is currently involved in a few collaborative digital endeavors. He blogs at In The Middle, serves on the Editorial Committee of the Online Medieval Disability Glossary, and is collaborating with Candace Barrington on Global Chaucers, an emergent online archive of modern adaptations of Chaucer in non-Anglophone settings.

In modern English, the symbol & [ampersand] stands out among punctuation marks due to its status not as a silent break between words but rather a glyph that signifies an entire word in itself. That is to say, the ampersand functions not as a punctuation mark but rather as a logogram, compressing an entire word (semantic unit) into one graphic symbol. The ampersand, moreover, really came into its own in Middle Ages as a ligature: most visible, for instance, in the linking of Carolingian letters E and T (the Latin word “et”).[1]

ampersand image 1

Over time, the stylized glyph transformed and was eventually carried over into vernacular languages as the grammatical conjunction that we pronounce, in English, as “and.”

I really love the ampersand because it’s so cute. So beautiful. So aesthetically pleasing. So logographically distinctive. The aptly-named blog 300&65 Ampersands devoted an entire year (2010 to be precise) to celebrating the ampersand in all its variety. Each day readers were reminded that the ampersand marks a distinctive flourish for graphic designers and typographers alike.

I also love the ampersand for its conspicuous capacity to signify “and”-ness across languages. The symbol has unique conjunctive powers, and the ampersand does not so much conjoin thoughts as squish them together, enacting a confluence of languages. The name “ampersand,” of course, derives from a bilingual utterance that schoolchildren would recite back in the days when the symbol was considered a “letter” of the alphabet like A and I. In this 19th-century hornbook, the ampersand appears at the end of the alphabet after all the capital letters. When reciting the alphabet (so the story goes), schoolchildren would make the utterance “A per se A” [A by itself means “A”], “I per se I” [I by itself means “I”], and “and per se and” to drive home the point that the symbol “by itself” signaled an entire word. “And per se and” becomes “Ampersand.” Its very name in modern English squishes together two languages (English and Latin) into a conjunctive neologism.

At this point I’d like to pivot to consider the post-medieval life of the ampersand when it enters into print culture and show some of the ways it brazenly flaunts its capacity to move across tongues. Shakespeare’s Henry V is one of my favorite fictive explorations of medieval language contact. In the final courtship scene (Act 5, scene 2), English Henry woos French Katherine initially through her interpreter Alice but soon both attempt to speak, however haltingly, in the other’s language. In this excerpt from a printing of Henry V in Shakespeare’s First Folio(1623), the French dialogue (code-switching) is signaled by italics.[2]

ampersand image 2

First, Henry speaks to Katherine in his halting French: “Ie quand sur le possession de Fraunce, & quand vous aues le possession de moy … Donc vostre est Fraunce, & vous estes mienne” [When I have the possession of France, and (&) when you have the possession of me, then France is yours, and (&) you are mine]. Throughout Henry’s utterance, the ampersand marks the French conjunction “et” [and], conjoining a chain of thoughts on language and reciprocal possession. Katherine then praises Henry’s French: “le Francois ques vous parleis, il & melius que l’Anglois le quel Ie parle” [the French that you speak, it is (& = est) better than the English that I speak]. Here, the ampersand shifts, standing in now for the French verb “est” [is] rather than the conjunction “et” [and]. In a case of typographical irony, the early modern compositor has improperly repurposed the multivalent logogram. Fittingly, this typographical toggling happens in the very episode in the play where boundaries between French and English vernaculars and their overlapping claims to “possession” are increasingly blurred.

And now for a coda, addition, appendix, appendage: some brief comments on the ampersand’s sibling, the Tironian “et” (i.e., the numeral-seven-shaped symbol or plus-sign glyph that also signifies the word “and”).[3] In one sense this Tironian symbol has a parallel life to the ampersand. On the QWERTY keyboard the ampersand (&) lives on the same key as seven (7), suggesting a typographical coupling or toggling between the two. And these symbols’ parallel lives nicely register across languages. This sign for a “pay and park” in Ireland uses the Tironian 7 in the Irish text but the & (ampersand) in English text below.[4]

Stan Carey - íoc & taispeáin, with Tironian et

Despite their similarity in meaning, the Tironian symbol and the ampersand are not entirely interchangeable. The Tironian “and” diverges from the ampersand in another important respect: it can serve a slightly different grammatical role in Latin. The mark in Latin texts did not merely signify a conjunction but could stand in for the enclitic suffix “-que” (meaning “and”).[5]

Perhaps, then, the Tironian “et” and the ampersand engage in a kind of graphic and syntactic sibling rivalry. I leave you with this poster in which Shakespeare is typographically surpassed by the Middle Ages through a deliberate divergence in punctuation. Some of the promotional posters for the film Tristan and Isolde (2006) use a provocative tagline that deploys two different symbols for the word “and.” This poster reads: “Before there was Romeo and [&] Juliet, there was Tristan and [+] Isolde.”[6]

ampersand image 4

So the next time you see the ampersand (or its sibling, the Tironian “and”), don’t just admire the symbol because it’s cute or aesthetically pleasing. Respect it as a logogram. Marvel at its power to move across languages. And consider how it encourages us to adopt not so much “conjunctive” thinking as a concurrent processing of languages and meanings.

[1] Image 1 is excerpted from the section on the ampersand from Keith Houston’s informative book on punctuation marks, Shady Characters (2013); the blog that spawned Houston’s book is also excellent.

[2] Image 2 is a screenshot from this digital reproduction of the Brandeis University Library copy of the First Folio, via Internet Shakespeare Editions.

[3] For the history of this symbol, see Keith Houston’s excellent blog posting.

[4] Image 3 can be accessed on this entry on Stan Carey’s language blog, along with related links about the ampersand.

[5] See Adriano Cappelli (trans. David Heimann and Richard Kay), The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography (Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries, 1982), section 3.72 [p. 18].

[6] Image 4 was accessed through Craig Koban’s online review of Tristan and Isolde (2006).

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Filed under Conferences, Guest Post, Kalamazoo

Guest Post – Josh Eyler: , (A Breath) (Presented at ICMS 2014)

In my last post, I wrote about the BABEL punctuation session at the 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI, and, in particular, the meaningful presentation by Josh Eyler on the comma. Now we have a surprise – he has been generous enough to post the full text of his presentation here on MassMedieval! We are very grateful for this opportunity and thank Josh for his willingness to share his work with us – and you.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2006, Josh Eyler moved to a position as Assistant Professor in the English department at Columbus State University in Georgia.  Although he was approved for tenure at CSU, his love for teaching and his desire to work with instructors from many different disciplines led him to the field of faculty development and to George Mason University, where he served as an Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence from 2011-2013. In August of 2013, he moved to Rice University to take the positions of Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities. He has published broadly on medieval literature, and his eclectic research interests include brain-based learning theories, Chaucer, and disability studies.  His current projects include the book Teaching the Humanities in the 21st Century, which is under contract with the University of Nebraska Press.

The Comma:  it has always intrigued me that such a tiny sliver of ink on paper, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say, could be so powerful.  There are, of course, the heated debates about the Oxford comma that drive proponents of either side into near apoplexy (I am unabashedly in favor of ol’ Oxie).  And there are the books and internet memes shouting at us about the ways in which “Punctuation Saves Lives!”  When used effectively, commas can magnify beauty, as in the elegant, yet potent, appositive in the title of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, or in the proliferation that drives us deeper into the consciousness of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  At the same time, when implemented poorly, commas can render prose nearly unintelligible.  There is power there.  I would like to suggest, though, that the comma’s power is more than just a stylistic one; it is a philosophical one too.  Today I want to productively splice the comma, weaving together a number of different perspectives on our field of Medieval Studies and ourselves.  To do so, I want to a build off of a foundation laid out in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Wit by Margaret Edson.  As you may recall, Wit tells the story of Vivian Bearing, a scholar specializing in John Donne’s poetry, and her ultimately unsuccessful battle with cancer.  In one particular scene, Vivian recalls her time as a graduate student and a meeting she has with her mentor Professor E. M. Ashford.

(The scene performed in the session ends with “It isn’t?”)

It’s not.  The point is the pause.  The breath.

As I think about this field that caught my mind and my heart many years ago now, I think about a comma the way Ashford describes it.  The Middle Ages offer the pregnant pause of possibility, the nurturing breath that gave rise to some of the most profound works of art the world has ever produced.  And yet, at the same time, those centuries that we group together and label as “medieval” still represent only the briefest of moments before the world began to move in different directions.  Time has always operated like this.  The Classical era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, then, now, tomorrow—all simply breaths in the collective sigh of the past.  Because, despite what Stephen Greenblatt and other Burckhardtians would have us believe, history is not made up of full-stop “periods,” all separate from each other, but of commas, one inextricably linked to the next as parts of the same structure.

In a similar way, only the smallest of pauses, a comma, separates us from the medieval world.  The art of the Middle Ages still speaks to us with immediacy and urgency.  When Dante talks about his dark wood, we understand; manuscripts, written by hands not very different from our own, capture us intellectually; Chaucer’s jokes about bodily functions make us laugh; Boccaccio’s gripping account of the bubonic plague reveal what could still account for the best and worst in human nature; cathedrals and castles built a thousand years ago continue to inspire; Julian of Norwich’s claim that “all shall be well” resonates with a comforting, if not entirely convincing, hope.

Finally, nothing but a breath, a comma, separates us from our students–for we do not teach medieval literature, medieval art, medieval history, or medieval archaeology; we teach students about these subjects, about new ways to see their world through the lens of the past.  Our field will continue to live and breathe only insofar as we dedicate ourselves to teaching it.  And here I look to the wisdom of my dissertation director, Fred Biggs, who once told me that *everything* is a teaching activity—writing, presenting, publishing, but especially our work in the classroom, where we will teach hundreds and even thousands of students over the course of a career.  The work we do with our students will push back the boundaries of our knowledge about the Middle Ages ever further, but to accomplish this we need to tear down the tenuous hierarchies of our classrooms—professor/student, expert/novice—and move forward together as fellow learners, engaging in projects together, teaching each other, finding meaning together in this moment—our own pause, our breath, our comma.


Filed under Conferences, Guest Post, Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo 2014: Saturday (BABELing Punctuation)

Yesterday, I spent time at the exhibition hall and early dinner, so I only made one session. As it happened, it was a rich session and one in which I got to play a small role. This panel was the BABEL working group’s discussion of our ever favorite and often frustrating punctuation marks. Each member of the panel addressed a different type of punctuation: the space, the apostrophe, the comma, the interrobang, the asterisk, and the ampersand. The talks ranged from the outrageous to the poignant, which perhaps illustrates an idea that came up in more than one of the talks: punctuation both incites emotion and drives it. How it incites varies. For instance, who has not seen or experienced the frustration elicited upon encountering a missing apostrophe (as David Hadbawnik pointed out in countless memes devoted to the subject)? This (and I proudly admit I’m one of the most rabid) despite that many punctuation marks are in relative infancy of their so-called modern codification (ex. earlier in its history, the apostrophe was indeed used to form the plural: tomato’s).

Yet, the emotion of punctuation is not limited to that created by its misuse. Its significance, for instance, in literature and poetry can be the difference in whether the writing speaks or is mute. My friend Josh Eyler presented on the comma, and a few weeks back he asked if I and another friend, Cameron Hunt McNabb, would be up for helping him with a rather unorthodox plan. How could we not? His idea was indeed unorthodox, but a perfect fit for the concept of his talk and the concept of the panel. After a brief introduction, Josh began to discuss the Margaret Edson play Wit of which there is also a film version starring the incomparable Emma Thompson. The play is about Vivian Bearing, an English professor and a Donne scholar, who is diagnosed with cancer, and the story is a series of flashbacks that follow the path of her treatment. At a pre-arranged cue, Cameron and I stood up out of the audience and, entering from both sides of the stage, began a dramatic reading of a scene from the play that Josh had described. If I hadn’t been a bit preoccupied, I would have liked to have seen what I am sure was surprise from the audience! Unorthodox indeed.

To speak to the scene, however, it is a moving moment that revolves around, of all things, the comma. In the flashback, Vivian remembers a discussion with her professor, Dr. E.M. Ashford (my role in our amateur production), in which she is told to rewrite a paper because she has used the wrong edition of Donne’s “Holy Sonnet Six” in favor of one that is “inauthentically punctuated.” What begins as humorous turns to the poignant as Ashford verbally removes all the unnecessary punctuation from a line of the poem, returning it to the “authentic edition’s” simple comma.

“And death shall be no more, comma, Death thou shalt die.”

“Nothing but a breath – a comma – separates life from everlasting life.”

A breath. After our scene, Josh expanded upon this concept as he considered thinking of time periods as commas, thus reminding us that we are only separated from the Middle Ages by a breath. He drew even more from this as he indicated that we also are only separated from our students by a breath, a comma, a pause, rather than the “insuperable barriers” that all too often get built.

The scene in the film:

To move on to the rest of the panel, my thoughts are rather a jumble. I will attempt to sort them with one of my own favorite punctuation: the bullet mark.

  • The first talk, “Seeing Spaces” by Chris Piuma, brought up one idea in particular that I want to mull further. He commented that spaces are inserted into editions and all text for the purpose of making reading easier. When it does, what happens then when we (or students) are asked to read something with non-traditional spacing (insert medieval MSS)? He acknowledged that poetry often does complicate spacing, but not everyone reads poetry and gains this experience.
  • Meg Worley, in “The Divorce of Punctuation and Diacritics,” indicated how, in literary history, some authors wanted control of punctuation, and yet others ceded it to the publisher, having little interest in it. How do these choices affect or even control the reader? We should consider our own interaction with punctuation and not be afraid to “push back” and question how works are punctuated. What kind of speculation and analysis would present itself if we consider passages with commas (re)moved or statements becoming questions?
  • As an example, in a way, of the idea of reconsidering punctuation as printed, Corey Sparks (remotely through the miracle of YouTube – see full presentation below) reimagined a few Chaucerian passages by replacing certain punctuation added in by editors and adding the interrobang (‽). This mark can indicate querying surprise and can often complicate narrative with its presence. In particular, Sparks considers passages from the Book of the Duchess, one into which editors often assert an assortment of punctuation.

  • Robert Rouse tackled the asterisk. The idea that struck me the most from his talk was his consideration of the Middle English dictionary and the asterisk as search tool (adding an asterisk to a truncated word being searched allows the dictionary to search for more forms). Rouse described this as smoothing over the edges of what we don’t know, offering us options and possibilities. He likened this way of looking at the search tool to our entire field, suggesting we should think in terms of Medieva*.
  • Jonathan Hsy brought us the ampersand (&). He sifted through a great deal of information and history, but I was drawn to his last point. He showed the image of the Tristan + Isolde film poster (posted below), which has the tag line: “Before Romeo & Juliet, there was Tristan + Isolde.” I still do not have a conclusion about the parallel use of the two marks (unlike my views on the film itself), although I am intrigued by the medieval vs. Early Modern reading.

I believe I will stop there, although there were many fascinating ideas presented that I did not discuss. I will end with the same question someone else raised at the end of the panel: what has happened in scholarly history that we can now be this playful with punctuation?

Hopefully, tomorrow, I will finish the last of the Kalamazoo posts.



Filed under Chaucer, Conferences, Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo 2014: Friday (with the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages)

My day began as I prepared to moderate the “Disability Studies and the Post/Human” panel, sponsored by the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (SSDMA), of which I am a member. I have been looking forward to this panel, mainly because I am mostly unfamiliar with posthuman scholarship, and I was hoping to learn quite a bit from the presenters. Phillip Bernhardt-House began with a talk entitled “Medieval Irish Cybernetic Debates.” This work focused in particular upon the texts of Nuada Argatlam (Nuada Silver-Arm). Referencing Miach, the healer who sets the arm, as the first cyberneticist, Bernhardt-House discussed how, in spite of being the one to fashion metal into limb, he is more concerned with the humanity and humanness of King Nuada than anyone else. Of particular interest to me is the point made that the loss of the silver arm and, thus, the loss of the very “thing” that gives him his name is particularly troublesome for the characters, tantamount to taking away identity.

Nicole Eddy presented “Mental Disability and Mental Illness in the ‘Lives’ of the Devotio Moderna.”  First, I was once again struck by, no matter how long I have been in this field and how many books and articles I have read, there is still so much to which I am constantly introduced. One of the many reasons to love being a medievalist – it’s never ending. All that to say, the community of the Devotio Moderna is new to me, all the more surprising given that they are an influence upon Thomas à Kempis. Eddy’s work focuses on the texts produced by this community, particularly those that detailed the lives and especially the end of lives of some of its members. She emphasized how these lives, while clearly aware of the saint’s life motifs, did not stylize their subjects in this way. In particular, she discussed how disabilities brought about by aging, such as what we would term dementia, are described. Of interest is that, while disability was a means of demonstrating virtues (as defined and prized by the Devotio Moderna), virtue was not affected by disability.

Last in the panel was Tory Pearman and “Perceval’s Sister, (Dis)ability and the Posthuman.” Tory’s engagement with the concept of the posthuman and then creating a new category of the prehuman to discuss this character was enlightening. I was especially interested in her reading of the Grail itself as potentially emblematic of the posthuman. This reading seems to be useful, especially considering the varying identities and fluidity of the Grail. Considering only the idea of the Grail as vessel for holding Christ’s blood and the considerations for understanding it as a “body,” and a potentially immortal one, is vastly intriguing. In the discussion afterwards, it was brought up how the knights (in Malory, for instance) are almost analogous to the Grail, and subsequently its relationship to Christ’s body, in the many moments they are pierced, wounded, and bleeding.

In the afternoon, between SSDMA panels, I decided to attend the “Cultural Approaches to Teaching History of the English Language,” sponsored by the Medieval Association of the Midwest. I teach a course occasionally called Structure and Nature of Language, which shares certain characteristics with a traditional HEL class. I was curious to see what others do as I have found the class challenging for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that students sometimes resist the material, but, more importantly, there is so much to cover, especially as we do not have other supplemental linguistic courses. Elizabeth Howard, in “An Integrative Approach to Teaching HEL,” offered the idea of teaching the material with the principles of the “new-known” pedagogy – start students with what they know and then step-by-step lead them to apply what they know to the new concepts. It’s an approach I will have to consider.

The second SSDMA panel was a roundtable, featuring “Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities.” The roundtable provoked a great deal of useful discussion. Indeed, so many ideas were being examined that it is difficult to summarize it all. I will limit myself to three main ones. Rick Godden began the panel thinking about how the debate (argument, brouhaha – whatever you want to call it) about whether it is better to take notes by hand or on a digital device raises some serious issues about access. The claim that pen and paper is the better method can exclude those who are prevented from using it for a variety of reasons. To me, it seems that the thought that one or the other is the only solution is incredibly limiting. Both traditional methods (pen/paper, books, etc.) and digital methods (laptops, tablets, voice machines, etc.) have their time, place, usefulness, etc. Digital advancements have opened up access to many, which should be something we embrace and explore – with reason and research and careful thought, yes, but with open minds.

This discussion led to the second idea I want to mention, which is, as Cameron Hunt McNabb commented upon, that with the advancements in access we also need to consider advancements in production. These advancements might be in who is able to produce or it might be in the types of production of which we are now capable. It’s a good point. Inventions, digital enhancements, etc., can be fascinating, but, if we do not ask the next question of how they can be put to use, then they become mere toys.  John, also on the panel, is an advocate of considering well how to adopt the digital humanities, particularly in light of the fact that new digital platforms require a great deal of time and effort to train on and use, which could take away from time spent elsewhere. Still, one aspect of digital humanities that he highlighted is its ability to bring what we do to newer audiences in a format we can control and maintain.

The fourth member of the panel, Jonathan Hsy, demonstrated the possibility of digital humanities to promote activism. One example he gave is the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship project here at Kalamazoo who are sponsoring a well-publicized Wikipedia Write-in in order to promote and edit entries on medieval women. He also discussed how difficult or typically uncomfortable topics can be opened up on social media in ways that they cannot in other venues.

There ended my day (well, it ended on the SSDMA business meeting, but I’ll stop here!). On to the next…




Filed under Conferences, Disability, Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo 2014: Thursday

My exciting morning of Kalamazoo began with…grading. A teacher has to do what a teacher has to do.

However, after I managed to extricate myself from what (and I’m not exaggerating) are some truly illuminating final reflections from my study abroad students, I made my way to the Tolkien at Kalamazoo panel focused on The Fall of Arthur. I had assigned excerpts of this text to those very same study abroad students this semester, and I was curious what others were doing with the book. This particular panel was a combination of intertextual readings, between TFoA and other Tolkien texts as well as medieval texts; close readings; and legendarium readings, those situating this new text within Tolkien’s universe. I will admit that, as much as I adore Tolkien, I sometimes forget – or perhaps simply take for granted as I have “lived” in it for so long – the scope of his legendarium. The intertwining of the fantasy universe with the medieval literary landscape as well as the history is truly unparalleled.

One topic that truly hit home for me was John Rateliff’s assertion, in his “‘That seems fatal to me’: Pagan and Christian in The Fall of Arthur,” that the Arthurian world is inserted into and subordinate to Tolkien’s world – not vice versa as one might assume given the complex history of the Arthurian corpus. He also discussed Tolkien’s insistence that fantasy mythologies and real religions should remain completely separate, and, yet, he has to navigate the interplay between the pagan and Christian (and other) in his sources. In John Holmes; “‘Double-Hearted’: Psychomachia in The Fall of Arthur,” he raised significant points about how Tolkien addresses the complex realization of inner conflict in the text and how the characters are, in my paraphrasing, at war with themselves. I was particularly intrigued by his discussion of the scenes in which Lancelot and Guinevere describe each other and themselves as having become strangers. Robert Tredray’s “Tides of Time in The Fall of Arthur” was really a useful close reading, considering how Arthur is a king at the beginning who is fighting against the tides of time, believing he can unnaturally control them, yet, at the end, he has learned (literally) to go with the flow when he decides to accept the inconvenient status of the tides during battle.

As a side note, it was announced that there is a new open-access journal, The Journal of Tolkien Research. It is peer-reviewed and they take and will publish rolling submissions.

I ended my day in the panel in which I was presenting, “The Relevance of the Middle Ages Today,” organized by Dr. Albrecht Classen at the University of Arizona. I will admit freely that I was, uncharacteristically, nervous about my paper, “From the Monk’s Cell to the Professor’s Office.” It is a different piece than I have written before, and I was worried about how I had approached it. I am pleased that it was well-received. All the papers in the panel worked quite well. The first – “‘The past is a foreign country’: Teaching the Middle Ages as a Study Abroad Program” by Jacqueline Anne Stuhmiller,  posited that a way to approach teaching medieval classes is to think of them as study abroad courses in which students are immersed in foreign language and culture. The second, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning from the Medium Aevum” by Krijn Pansters, recounted his internal and spiritual experiences, thinking of them in terms of how medieval people would have experienced their own spirituality.

My paper focuses on the history of academics and teachers, considering what we can learn from this genealogical connection to, in particular, medieval universities and faculties. I approached this by breaking it down into our typical areas of academia: research, teaching, and service. I think there is much to consider in having conversations about our origins. For instance, teaching has always been a defining part of our mission, and, yet, today, teaching in higher education is quite often marginalized. I also discuss the humanities debate and how medievalists might fit into this discussion as well as the on-going attacks on academics that we are not publicly engaged enough. I was encouraged by the response to my ideas and research, and I am daring to hope that I might submit it for publication, perhaps even a related article to The Chronicle. So stay tuned! For a link to some of the sources I cite in the paper, please see my ongoing Readlists. Also, please feel free to offer suggestions for more related articles.

And now to begin Friday of Kalamazoo!



Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo, Tolkien

Kalamazoo Rendezvous (No, Not That Kind!) – or What Medievalists and Mountain Men Have in Common

It’s that time of year again – when Kalamazoo, MI, becomes the meeting place of thousands of medievalists. We descend on the small college town in packs, sometimes hordes, and as lone nomads. Every year, as I take this flight, I reflect on this unique experience. This year, I am reminded of an old custom.
Be prepared – I’m about to torture this metaphor. Fair warning.
The American mountain men of the 19th century spent their lives hunting and trapping, most often alone in the wilderness, particularly  up in the Rockies. They perfected their craft (if they didn’t, they didn’t last long). They were befriended by Native Americans – at least, if they saw them – and learned their ways. They spent long winters snowed in with their thoughts for company. Then, in the spring, they would make their way down the mountains to “civilization,” and there they gathered, along with merchants and traders eager to buy their furs and sell supplies. But it was more than a market. These solitary men took their fill of society, spent their newly-acquired money, competed in games, ate and drank with the gusto born from battling Mother Nature for months. When they were done, they returned to their mountains, probably broke as they had no real need of money during the year, to begin the cycle over again. These gatherings were aptly named the Rendezvous.
Perhaps it’s unnecessary for me to unpack the metaphor, but let me have my fun. Medievalists at universities are often the lone faculty member studying our particular specialty. We learn from colleagues who have different sub-fields, but our scholarship is generally done in isolation from others of our ilk (for the sake of my metaphor, I will ignore this invention called the internet). We hone our research and practice our craft, while toiling away at teaching and service.
Then, in the spring, we come out of our universities and from under our mountains of grading, and, with the fruit of our labor in hand, we journey to Kalamazoo with so many others just like us, ones with whom we share histories or ones we meet for the first time. We see old friends, and we gain new knowledge. We write furiously; listen euphorically; discuss passionately; network frantically; buy generously; celebrate enthusiastically; and eat and drink merrily. When it’s over, we leave – some regretfully, some triumphantly, some satiated, some animated – knowing we’ll return again the following year.
The ice has thawed, and spring is here again. See you at the Rendezvous.


Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo

Friends of MassMedieval at Kalamazoo 2014

Link to Kalamazoo schedule here – spread the word!

MassMedieval’s Session:

Session 511 (Schneider 1280) – Sunday, 8:30AM – Medievalists and the Social Media Pilgrimage: The Digital Life of Twenty-First-Century Medieval Studies (A Roundtable)

Organizer and Presider:  Kisha

A roundtable discussion with John; Peter Konieczny,; Brandon W. Hawk, Univ. of Connecticut; Andrew M. Pfrenger, Kent State Univ.–Salem; Joshua R. Eyler, Rice Univ.; and M. Wendy Hennequin, Tennessee State Univ.

In the last few years, the online presence of medievalists has increased. Blogs, Twitter, and other related types of social media have become a way for academics in the field to communicate on an international scale. This roundtable seeks to further discussions started by MassMedieval at the 2013 Congress and bring together individuals who are interested in discussing how to use social media as well as how medievalists can think about their digital lives. It will address questions such as: how can medievalists get started in social media? How can social media be used to bring medievalists together? How do we manage our online profiles? What are the potential negatives and how might they be overcome? As a means of demonstrating how social media works, we will also use the hashtag #Digimedievalist to Tweet throughout the session and encourage members of the audience to do so as well – a real time application of the discussion.

John’s Sessions:

Session 34 (Bernhard 106) – Thursday, 10AM – The Anglo-Scandinavian World: New England Saga Society (Presider)

Session 299 (Schneider 1155) – Friday, 3:30PM – Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities (A Roundtable): Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Panelist)

Kisha’s Sessions:

Session 131 (Bernhard 158) – Thursday, 3:30PM – The Relevance of the Middle Ages Today – “From the Monk’s Cell to the Professor’s Office” (Presenter)

Session 171 (Valley II Harvey 204) – Friday, 10AM – Medieval Disability Studies and the Posthuman: Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Presider)

Other FOMM (Friends of MassMedieval) Sessions (in no particular order)
***If I have missed anyone, please don’t be offended. I simply did a quick search. Post your session in the comments below. Same goes if there are any errors to be corrected.

Session 34 (Bernhard 106) – Thursday, 10AM – The Anglo-Scandinavian World: New England Saga Society (Organizer)

Session 171 (Valley II Harvey 204) – Friday, 10AM – Medieval Disability Studies and the Posthuman: Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Organizer)

Session 299 (Schneider 1155) – Friday, 3:30PM – Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities (A Roundtable): Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Organizer)

Session 391 (Fetzer 1005) – Saturday, 1:30PM – #;()@?”:—*! (A Roundtable): BABEL  – “, (A Breath)” (Panelist)

Session 558 (Bernhard 158) – Sunday, 10:30AM – Staging Disability in Medieval Drama: Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society – “The View from Zacchaeus’s Sycamore: Perspectives on Disability in the Medieval English Biblical Plays” (Presenter)

  • Wendy Marie Hoofnagle

Session 162 (Bernhard 209) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Medieval Monarchy and the Church: Conflict and Cooperation: Royal Studies Network – “Penance and Power: “’Criminous Clerks’ and Henry II’s Forest in the Vie de saint Gille (Presenter)

  • Anne Berthelot

Session 137 (Bernhard 211) – Thursday, 3:3PM – Merlin’s Colleagues: Société Internationale des Amis de Merlin (Organizer) – “Eliavres, or, Merlin’s Dark Reflection” (Presenter)

  • Laura Saetveit Miles

Session 167 (Bernhard Brown & Gold Room) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Translingual Authors (A Roundtable)  (Presider)

Session 287 (Fetzer 1045) – Friday, 3:30PM – Writing the Middle Ages for Multiple Audiences (A Panel Discussion): CARA (Panelist)

Session 361 (Schneider 1280) – Saturday, 10AM – Monastic Sexualities: Syon Abbey Society (Organizer)

Session 299 (Schneider 1155) – Friday, 3:30PM – Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities (A Roundtable): Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Panelist)

Session 558 (Bernhard 158) – Sunday, 10:30AM – Staging Disability in Medieval Drama: Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (Presider and Organizer)

Session 139 (Bernhard 213) – Thursday, 3:30PM – The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Presider)

Session 141 (Valley I Shilling Lounge) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Medieval Poetry/Modern Poets (A Performance)

Session 451 (Fetzer 2016) – Saturday, 3:30PM – The Medievalism of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Volumes – “A Better Band of Hall-Thanes: Harry Potter and the Comitatus Bond” (Presenter)

  • Leah Schwebel

Session 63 (Fetzer 2030) – Thursday, 1:30PM – Crossing Boundaries/Breaking Rules I: Hagiographies: Chaucer Review – “Power in Flux: Chaucer’s Triumphal Monk’s Tale” (Presenter)

Session 167 (Bernhard Brown & Gold Room) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Translingual Authors (A Roundtable) – “Giovanni Boccaccio: Latin and Italian” (Panelist)

Session 30 (Schneider 1325) – Thursday, 10AM – New Methods in Anglo-Saxon Homiletics: Society for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Homiletics (Organizer)

Session 160 (Bernhard 204) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Universal Saints Located in Anglo-Saxon England – “An Old Testament Saint? Judith in Anglo-Saxon England” (Presenter)

Session 234 (Fetzer 1045) – Friday, 1:30PM – Postcolonial Disability in the Middle Ages: Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, Purdue Univ. – “Disorienting Mobilities: Encountering Alien Embodiment in the Medieval West and Global North” (Presenter)

Session 299 (Schneider 1155) – Friday, 3:30PM – Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities (A Roundtable): Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages (Panelist)

Session 391 (Fetzer 1005) – Saturday, 1:30PM – #;()@?”:—*! (A Roundtable): BABEL  – “&” (Panelist)

  • Steven Rozenski

Session 167 (Bernhard Brown & Gold Room) – Thursday, 7:30PM – Translingual Authors (A Roundtable) (Organizer) – “Bruder Hans: German, English, Latin, and French” (Presenter)

  • Carolyn Coulson

Session 293 (Schneider 1120) – Friday, 3:30PM – New Approaches to Performance Practice: Process, Theory, Technique: Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (Presider and Organizer)

Session 389 (Valley I Britton 103) – Saturday, 1:30PM – Shrews before Shakespeare I (A Readers’ Performance of Medieval “Shrew Plays”): Chaucer Studio

  • Jeremy DeAngelo

Session 156 (Schneider 1360) – Thursday, 7:30PM – “I just don’t want to die without a few scars”: Medieval Fight Clubs, Masculine Identity, and Public (Dis)Order: Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham Univ. – “The Männerbund and Anglo-Saxon Succession” (Presenter)

  • Patti Taylor

Session 94 (Valley II Harvey 204) – Thursday, 3:30PM – Shakespeare and Adaptation: Shakespeare at Kalamazoo – “Rewriting Richard III: Shakespeare in the Vorkosigan Saga” (Presenter)

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ICMS 2014 Roundtable: “Medievalists and the Social Media Pilgrimage”

MassMedieval is once again hosting a roundtable at KZoo 2014. We have a great group of panelists already, though we still have a couple of spaces open if you are interested in joining us! If so, send an email to Kisha at by September 15th.

Roundtable: “Medievalists and the Social Media Pilgrimage: The Digital Life of 21st Century Medieval Studies #Digimedievalist”

In the last few years, the online presence of medievalists has increased. Blogs, Twitter, and other related types of social media have become a way for academics in the field to communicate on an international scale. This roundtable seeks to further discussions started by MassMedieval at the 2013 Congress and bring together individuals who are interested in discussing how to use social media as well as how medievalists can think about their digital lives. It will address questions such as: how can medievalists get started in social media? How can social media be used to bring medievalists together? How do we manage our online profiles? What are the potential negatives and how might they be overcome? As a means of demonstrating how social media works, we will also use the hashtag in the title (#Digimedievalist) to Tweet throughout the session and encourage members of the audience to do so as well – a real time application of the discussion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo