Kalamazoo 2011 – Day One and a Half

20 May

Man this is long – I think it may be the eternal post. I’ll try to shorten the next three installments – at least this takes care of 90% of the book buying. EDIT 5/30/11 – I’ve just added anchors to help people navigate to the sessions, if that’s what you’re interested in.

Session 25: Late Antiquity I: Saints: Their Lives and Their Experiences

Session 72: Late Antiquity II: Understanding Barbarians

Session 95: Creating the Holy Dead: Sainthood in the Middle Ages

Before I get started I’ll remind anyone who was around then that I will not be posting session summaries like I did last year. Even if I wanted to, I don’t have time – and I don’t want to.

This edition will cover Wednesday and Thursday, though I sort of covered Woden’s Day already. In honor of Woden, I went on my own Wild Hunt for a soap dish. I must have wandered through the pharmacy area at Wal-Mart for 15 minutes trying to find a 97 cent item. I could have spared myself though. My “loo-mate” did not choose to avail himself of such an item and his soap ended up on the only tray in the shower for the duration. I was glad I had mine though – I’m sure he’s a fine fellow and everything but I didn’t feel like sharing lather with him and even if I brought my own soap in, once I set it on top of his in a warm shower with only one soap tray, I think the two bars would have become intimately acquainted with one another anyway. Of course since he never saw me use any soap since the soap dish I’d spent so much effort in acquiring traveled into my room with me, he likely believes I neglected my personal hygiene and didn’t bother showering the entire week.

Thursday post-breakfast found me at my usual post, waiting at the doors of the exhibit area, AKA (borrowing from the Congress Facebook Group) Book Heaven waiting for 8 a.m. I had two books I wanted to make sure I got before worrying about grazing my way through so my first stop was at the Boydell and Brewer Booth. This was a popular destination so I worked through the entire booth before finding a single display copy of Jonathan Jarrett’s new book, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010. I got my mitts on it and took it to the front along with another couple of books I’d picked up. My first question for the young lady was, “You should have brought more than just one of these.” Her response, “We brought two – someone already bought the other one.” This was at about 8:15. I believe Boydell & Brewer prevented Jonathan from becoming an instant best-selling author. It’s simple math. Two were purchased in the first quarter hour the exhibits were open. That figures to 8 an hour. The exhibit area was open 35.5 hours. If they had brought a sufficient quantity, Jonathan would have sold 284 books in the 4 days. Maybe that wouldn’t beat out J.K. Rowling but it would rate fairly well in the nonfiction category.

My next stop was Oxford to make sure I left with a copy of Alan Cameron’s The Last Pagans of Rome. Evidently the person running that booth hadn’t arrived the day before as she was unloading boxes when I got there and said she’d be ready for business in about an hour. So I reversed steps and started working my way through booths – Motte and Bailey was a revelation. I don’t know who Mike Belding is (was? RIP?) but I now own about six books that used to be his including a few I never thought I’d have because of the price. Among others, I now have Burgess’ The Chronicle of Hydatius and the Consularia Constantinopolitan which is OOP and, when I’ve seen used copies for sale, has been upwards of $300. If they’d had Steve Muhlberger’s The Fifth-Century Chroniclers. Prosper, Hydatius and the Gallic Chronicle of 452 and Blockley’s Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire similarly priced I think I could have died happy right then.

So I bought some books, including the Cameron volume, hauled them up to my room (I was staying in Harrison, right above the books) and headed up to Fetzer for a 10 AM session.

The first session I attended was Session 25, sponsored by The Society for Late Antiquity, “Late Antiquity I: Saints: Their Lives and Their Experiences.”

The first paper was presented by David Price of the University of Toronto, “Saints and Their Communities: Reading Sixth-Century Italian Hagiography in Its Oral and Popular Context.” David discussed hagiography and in particular those written by Gregory the Great. David believes that Gregory’s miracle stories were not invented by him or sent to him as texts but were Gregory’s recounting of stories which had become widespread in Italy. These stories had been developed by a popular audience which was familiar with the standard Hagiographical “forms” and through oral transmission became widespread. He discussed how Italy possessed a vibrant story telling culture at the time and also how Gregory specifically identifies individuals he heard the stories from. David believes that while Gregory almost certainly did some editing, the stories themselves developed and circulated shortly after the death of a saint. For me, this paper left me a little dry. I can accept that Gregory was relating stories which had become widespread by the time he heard of them and decided to write them down, however David offered no real proof of his theory for a popular origin. A question I would have liked to ask, but time ran out before I could was, “Are you attributing the spread of these stories simply through oral transmission by the populace or do you think the respective saints had a local patron, likely clerical but at least highly influential, who acted to promote that saint’s cult?” I think you can look at a contemporary, Gregory of Tours, and see an active promotion of Saints’ cults and I would have liked more concrete evidence that in Italy these originated by a different method before accepting it. 1

The next paper was by Francesca Bezzone of the National University of Ireland-Galway, “Ancient Medicine and Early Roman Liturgy: The Use of Holy Oil in the Vita Germani by Constanius.” She discussed how while oil had been used in religiously significant ways since the Old Testament, particularly for anointing, the Vita Germani is the first instance where Holy Oil is used for its regenerative and healing powers. She related several episodes where Germanus used oil to heal. I enjoyed this paper. She provided solid evidence and I’m willing to accept that this was a significant new addition to hagiography. I don’t recall her saying this but according to the forward to the Life of Germanus I have, this vita was likely written between 475-80. 2

Amy Norgard from the University of Illinois followed with, “Traveling With Bonitus: An Analysis of his Seventh-Century Vita and Its Place in Merovingian History.” This is basically an account of how a hagiographical author might “dress up” the life of his subject to gloss over some difficult moments. In this case, Bonitus, a seventh century Bishop of Clermont gives up the Bishopric to take a pilgrimage to Rome. In the account of his pilgrimage he spends little time in Rome but instead is trucking around to a variety of locations in Europe. Norgard believes it likely that Bonitus’ leaving Clermont was not as voluntary as it is portrayed in the account but that he may have been expelled and sent to Rome to face judgement. Of course this is portrayed as an adoption of asceticism and was evidently Bonitus’ “desert” for the purposes of this story. 3 She briefly discussed two other similar accounts in the Vita Apollinaris and Vita Justi. I had recently read the Vita Wilfridi by Eddius Stephanus so I was very familiar with what she was talking about.

The final paper of this session was by Elizabeth Platte from (I hope) The University of Michigan – in the program she’s listed as being from Loyola of Chicago but at the top of her handout it says Michigan. Her paper was titled, “The View from the Top: Egeria’s Ascent of Mount Sinai.” This paper basically recounted Egeria’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land and how her physical ascent of Sinai is mirrored by a spiritual ascent. By scaling to the top of the mountain she becomes able to see the world as God sees it and view the entire holy land. This ascent is her penultimate experience which brings her very close to God.

This was a good session. I particularly enjoyed the papers by Norgard and Bezzone but they were all good though I would liked to have had firmer evidence for the first one.

Following this session I became lazy. I stepped outside of Fetzer to catch a breath of air. I was planning to head back in, fire up the laptop and get some work done (I’d taken a banana from breakfast to have for lunch) when lo and behold, a bus rolls up. It was warm — the high that day was 86/30 with a lot of humidity and I took this as a sign and hopped in to go back to the books. That was the last time I walked across the pond to Fetzer, Schneider or Bernhard. (Bad Geek)

So I bought more books, (anyone beginning to see a pattern here?) including while at Ashgate asking the clerk how much a hardcover was and being told, “Normally it’s $110 but all hardcovers are half off.” Uh-oh – gasoline poured on a flame. I thought I’d forever be running to the library to read one of their Vivarium series (Vivaria?) and here I am with two on my bookshelf. Cambridge did the same thing to me later. And you wonder why I end up with so many books? As I type this I’m eating steamed rice with a touch of salt. My new diet – oatmeal for breakfast, a fried potato from the 10 lb sack I bought for lunch and rice for dinner. Just kidding – but back in the day I have resorted to that diet to stretch my money to the next payday. And once the cc statement comes …

I also ran into Richard Nokes of Witan Publishing and spoke briefly with him. The man has become positively svelte. I’m jealous. Congrats to Larry Swain BTW, on getting on their publication list.

The bus experience I’d just had was so gratifying that I decided to, uh, hop in my car and drive back to Fetzer for Session 72, “Late Antiquity II: Understanding Barbarians.” Unfortunately, the paper by Ricardo Colon on ethnicity I was hoping to hear was canceled. I’ve read a fair amount on this but am not “in the field” and was hoping to find out if there was any new thinking out there.

Nevertheless, I settled in for the first paper by Christine DeLaplace from the University de Toulouse-le Mirail. My synopsis of this paper will be extremely short because I completely agree with what she said. She supplied a fair amount of information on the early 5th century barbarians as well as their movements and actions to conclude that the Gallic nobility and barbarians were loyal to the concept of Rome and nobody acted consciously to end it. I completely agree with this; everyone wanted to be part of Rome, they just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. It was a good, interesting paper but I spent most of it nodding my head in agreement rather than taking notes.

A great deal of the next paper left me in the dust. Patrick Neff from the University of Illinois presented on, “The Bishop and the Barbarian: The Metric Letter of Auspicious to Arbogast.” Neff opened with a discussion of the poetic/grammatical structures of this 5th century letter. As someone who has proudly left his Latin behind, this portion of the paper did the same for me. However in essence, Neff argued that Auspicious had sent an invitation to Arbogast to, despite being a barbarian, join the literary circles of the Empire. He believed that Arbogast was looking for this from Auspicious and also Sidonius who praises him in correspondence. While barbarians as a group were still portrayed as smelly, oafish and dumb, specific barbarians in the late Empire could be accepted into the more cultured aspects of society.

The final paper was by David Harris from the University of Illinois, “Umm El-Jimal: The Material Culture of a Frontier Town.” This is a Roman town in what is today Northern Jordan, situated on the Palmyra-Aqaba caravan route. It is about as close to what was Persian territory as a Roman town could be and was under continuous Roman control (there may be a contradiction here in my notes) from the 2nd century until the Persians overran the region in the early 7th century. This was more of a descriptive paper. Harris described the small settlement in some detail. Inscriptions have been found indicating that two cultures lived there, or at least interacted; Sephardic, the language of the nomads and Nabatean, the native language, were both found and for virtually the entire period discussed. An interesting note in the development of the village is that it was destroyed and abandoned in the late 3rd century (here’s my contradiction with continuity but both are in my notes), was re-built in the 4th and grew significantly in the 5th and 6th century. Harris believes that the Rome-Persian War may have stimulated the local economy. Ultimately, this is an area which is just beginning to be explored and Harris wanted to bring some of that to us and encourage more people to work in this area.

This was another good session though I was lost for part of Neff’s presentation.

Next I hopped into my car and headed for the sauna which was the room for my Session 95, in Valley III, “Creating the Holy Dead: Sainthood in the Middle Ages.” I happen to be fond of the term, “the holy dead” or, in my case, dead holy people. Has a certain ring to it though the session title is probably more correct – they’re more defined by their holiness than by their deadness.

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand, the opening paper in this session was from Steven Stofferahn of Indiana State University, “Vitae Verity: Reality and Unreality in Early Medieval Saints’ Lives.” This paper fit in very well with Amy Norgard’s from earlier in the day. At the beginning Stofferahn asked the question, “How did exiles view their own plight?” They were stripped of their titles and authority so what did they do now? He related the tales of my old buddy Wilfrid as well as Sturm (another one I’ve read which was cool) to get his points across. The main one was that once a cleric had been removed, it wasn’t the end. In the first place, they were free to go where they wanted, which often was home. And while they may have been stripped of their ecclesiastical authority, this didn’t mean they without power or means. They could try to gain forgiveness, achieved by Sturm, or look for third party intervention as Wilfrid did from the Papacy more than once. Their situation was malleable – just because they were disgraced didn’t mean that had to last forever (though Stofferahn was careful to say that more often than not they did not return to positions of authority). Recovery was possible.

The next paper was by Cullen Chandler of Lycoming College, “Saints Eulalia of Barcelona: A Martyr and Her Ninth-Century Church.” Eulalia was a young girl who had been martyred in Barcelona (or maybe Mérida). Dr. Chandler related several interesting aspects of her cult, among these that as it progressed, her tortures through martyrdom increased, with 12 being present by the 9th century, which is the period he mainly discussed. Chandler related how, in the 9th century, the Saint took an active interest in her situation. The Archbishop wanted to translate her relics to Narbonne but when he looked for her body, it couldn’t be found. After he gave up, the local Bishop, Frodoin, found her, moved her body and built a church as her resting place. This helped Frodoin gain status and also helped the local church, at least when Charles the Bald gave it come money in recognition. It also had some implications for the Carolingians suppressing the Visigothic Liturgy. I had read one of the versions of Eulalia’s vita, likely from Mérida where her parents had hid her and she’d run away to be martyred. She was tortured but there definitely weren’t 12 of them. Interesting evolution of a story there.

The final paper in the session was by Austin O’Malley of the University of Chicago, “Worldly Detachment and Filial Devotion: The Reinvention of Bayazid Bistami in the Tazkirat al-awliya.” Now I may have read something about Muslim saints but if so, I’ve forgotten it. O’Malley related the roles which women played in Islamic hagiography. They seem to have had four roles; old women, sisters, mothers, and wives. In this paper the first two roles were explored. Old women typically show up out of nowhere in the desert, impart wisdom on the saint, then disappear equally miraculously. The saints are elevated by showing a willingness to listen to and be subservient to them. Sisters appear who are extremely pious, their piety reflecting the piety of the saint. One interesting fact he related is that while the saints retained all their masculinity, the female saints are stripped of their gender and become metaphorically and internally masculine. Interesting contrast with Christian saints where both genders are often softened; women being portrayed as more masculine and men as more feminine.

This was another very solid session with three good papers covering a topic I’m quite interested in. Plus I had the chance to meet Cullen Chandler in person for the first time, which was a pleasure. After this it was back to the books. Fortunately I ran into Jonathan Jarrett again – he was late to meet people for the second time that day and for the second time he stayed to chat with me for several minutes after telling me this. If he spends much time here we need to teach him that rushing off after telling someone you’re late is perfectly acceptable here – you shout salutations over your shoulder as you go. Anyway, the reason this was fortunate is he told me about the blogger meetup scheduled for the following day which I was clueless about.

Following the close of the book exhibit I ran into town, grabbed something to eat, went back to my room and worked on work stuff. I know that’s disappointing with all the tales of debauchery out there. I was seriously antisocial this Congress (and regretting that a bit now though it was pretty close to necessary) but I’ll talk about that in my final post. I had planned on going to a session on Negotiating Monasticism at 7:30 but two of the papers had been moved to the afternoon (creating a bit of an issue with me deciding where to go just then) and it didn’t seem worth it to haul my carcass back up there for just two papers. In any case it was a pretty good day. Went to good sessions, bought some books (would you believe at that moment in time I believed I had been buying fewer but better books than last year?) and ran into a couple of folks I hadn’t seen in a year.

1 I mentioned last year that I am happy and willing to ask questions but generally I try to wait until the professionals have had the chance to ask theirs first. This is a professional conference and if the historians have questions to ask, I don’t want to get in their way. Unfortunately, this means I don’t always get my questions asked though sometimes I’ll come up to a presenter at the end of a session. And before anyone points this out; yes, I know 20 minutes is a very short time to cover everything but for this topic I think more evidence for this assertion would have been useful.

2 F. R. Hoare, trans., “Constantius of Lyon: The Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre”, in Thomas F.X. Noble and Thomas Head, eds., Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints’ Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press (2000), p 76.

3 One of the earliest Vita was the 4th century Vita Antony or Life of Antony, authored by Anastasius. Antony is a desert monk and his time in the desert is put forward as a time of great trials and hardship while he lived a life of extreme poverty and asceticism. A pretty standard aspect of hagiography since has been some experience of hardship and travail which is sometimes referred to as that individual’s “desert” in deference to Antony. It is interesting to read some vita where their “desert” means they only traveled with two attendants instead of 20 or something (Gerald of Aurillac comes to mind here, or Edward the Confessor) but this aspect is almost always present in some form.


Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Books, Conferences


Tags: , , , ,

7 responses to “Kalamazoo 2011 – Day One and a Half

  1. David Kathman

    May 20, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Curt, I think we may have bumped into each other at the Boydell & Brewer booth on Thursday morning, because I was there shortly after 8:00 too. I ended up buying 16 books there, 12 of which I was able to take away that day. (Luckily, they kept them there for me until the end of the day, or I would have been too overloaded the rest of the day.Dave (dkathman from LibraryThing)

  2. Medieval History Geek

    May 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Hey Dave – We should have lunch together or something one of these years. At the very least we could talk about books. I was surprised how many people were at B & B that early, though they have good stuff so I guess I shouldn't be shocked. One of the reasons I don't get a hotel room is it would be much tougher to deal with the book purchases.

  3. David Kathman

    May 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Yeah, next year we should try to at least meet up in the book exhibit, and maybe get some lunch. I should have been on the lookout for you, since your picture is right there in your avatar, but at B & B I was too focused on looking at all the display copies and grabbing the ones I wanted.

  4. Jonathan Jarrett

    May 31, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    If they had brought a sufficient quantity, Jonathan would have sold 284 books in the 4 daysI absolutely love this arithmetic :-) I will communicate it to B&B just to hear their reaction. Thankyou for being one of the two!

  5. Medieval History Geek

    May 31, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I've been told you can't argue with math. Now if I'd done a statistical analysis my statement might be open for debate.

  6. Cullen Chandler

    June 7, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Not to quibble, but Eulalia was put to 13 tortures, one for each year of her short life. That's according to the most recent telling of the story, the kind that you get from tour guides.And I have to refrain from calling the bishop Frodo. His name appears in documents as Frodoin. If I didn't make myself add the -in, I'd crack myself up about studying the history of guys named Pippin and Frodo. Luckily, I haven't found a Merry or a Samwise!And while I'm here, let me say that these summaries are every bit as helpful as the ones you did last year. There's no sense in killing yourself for the ultra-thorough write ups, when these will satisfy just about everyone. Good job, and thanks for doing this!

  7. Medieval History Geek

    June 7, 2011 at 4:09 am

    Blegh – I knew his name was Frodoin – habit or reflex or something there. Can't believe I did that – twice.


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