Next Sunday I leave to spend a week in DC confabbing with a bunch of government types (though I’m afraid many discussions will involve, “once Congress passes a budget/raises the debt ceiling so we can actually fund _____”). Anyway, in looking at my schedule I’m afraid June 12 will kick in my annual 3-month summer when I go from busy to absolutely swamped which will substantially impact my blogging. I have one more post after this one I need to get out before then. After that you likely won’t hear a lot from me until mid-August at the earliest.
I just deleted a long, sort of whiny section where I complained about my lack of socialization at this year’s Congress. In essence, I had a lot of work I had to do, some of it with a deadline so instead of hanging out with and/or talking to people, I buried myself in my room evenings and in my laptop between sessions. All this is fine as I enjoy my job but my K’zoo experience was less personally rewarding than usual.
But it was still good. I already posted about books, though I’ll bring them up again later in this post. I didn’t do so well with the people so that leaves the sessions.
Every year it seems that the majority of my sessions, or at least a large minority, cover one topic area. In 2009 this was archaeology, particularly in Eastern and Central Europe. Last year it was Carolingian sessions. This year I went to a lot of sessions on dead holy people. I was sure, going in, that I’d end up at a lot of Anglo-Saxon sessions but that didn’t happen.
I enjoyed the sessions and learned a lot from them. Last year I went into Congress knowing I was going to do session reports (without realizing the time this would take) for each session so I took notes on everything. This year I knew I wouldn’t be doing that so if a paper didn’t interest me, I took very few notes. I’m sure the fact that I was somewhat distracted didn’t help. So I probably didn’t learn quite as much as last year but it was still a very good Congress from a session perspective. My two favorites were the papers by Jennifer Davis and Jonathan Jarrett. I think this was because each of these covered limited, distinct and, to me, very interesting topics. They then provided detailed information and presented it in a clear, logical manner. I have a mental list of presenters I want to hear and these two are now on it. I don’t always get to their sessions – this year I didn’t hear Paul Kershaw speak as he was opposite a Late Antiquity session and two I’ve very much enjoyed in the past, Graham Barrett and Angela Kinney, did not attend – but I try. I’ll also heartily recommend Phyllis Jestice. She’s a bit later than my core period so she won’t make “the list” but she gives an excellent presentation and knows her stuff.
I’ve said before that Kalamazoo really defines my Medieval Year. In the past I’ve always come back with some resolutions about things I need to work on/learn about which I’m pretty intense about. For a change, I don’t have anything like this to bring up. I suppose increasing language skills fits in there but I’ve done some of that. I had to re-learn Spanish somewhat for a trip to Mexico a few weeks ago and I’ve kept up on that, trying to read some Spanish every day. I need to re-learn French but I’ve done some of that too, which is a good thing because three of the books I bought are wholly or partially in French (I already fought my way through one essay in French). A couple have the odd essay in German or Italian. For now that will have to remain a point of ignorance. Latin? Maybe – I’ve started working on it a bit but “a bit” likely won’t cut it. We’ll see if I have the time.
I do have to readjust my reading though and figure out what my focus will be. Prior to my book binge I’d planned to continue working backward chronologically from the late 4th century through Christianity. Libanius, Ambrose, Jerome, Rufinus, Symmachus if I could find him, working back to Origen, Tertullian, Porphyry and finally the New Testament. I think that may be put on hold for a bit.
The way I generally do my reading is to focus on a topic/period/geographic region and start by reading secondary, newer books; starting with overviews and then into specific aspects; then grab all the sources I can get my hands on (which I’ll hopefully have identified through reading secondary stuff). My to-read list of books I own now stands at 144. Now some of those are books outside of my period I’ve picked up, usually because I found them cheap at a used bookstore and are in the “I’ll get to them someday” category. Lucrezia Borgia and Ancient India are undoubtedly very interesting subjects but they can wait. So as a way to begin to organize myself, here are categories and numbers of unread books I have on my shelves. Hopefully by now folks understand that one of the purposes of this blog is to force me to organize myself by putting things in writing.
Late Antiquity – generally 4th-7th centuries: 50
Christianity – most are Late Antique: 41
Ancient – anything pre-4th century: 17
Law – this is a broad category as it includes heresy(Church law), prisons, law codes, etc.: 10
Spain – post Arab Conquest: 6
Obviously there’s some overlap and a lot of the stuff I have in Late Antiquity, once I get into it, will have a Byzantine (and possibly Persian/Arab) focus. I could break it down even more but that’s enough for now. Should give me something to keep me off the streets in my down time.
So, to end my Kalamazoo stuff, I enjoyed it, though less than in most years. To those I managed to run into or meet, I enjoyed it. To those I didn’t, maybe next year. And again, if you get the chance to go, I encourage it. It is an academic conference but if you’re an interested amateur you’ll find plenty for you too and anyone is welcome.