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Category Archives: Conferences

Kalamazoo Registration is Up!

What’s more, after a two-year absence, I’m registered. For those interested, here’s Western Michigan University’s Congress page. The registration link is on the left menu bar.

For those wondering what this is about, each May a couple of thousand medievalists, along with a scattering of ignorami such as myself, attend the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This year’s Congress will be held May 14-17. Click on the Sessions link on the left menu bar of their page to get an idea of the program. Plus there are all those books …

If you want an idea of what I think of it, you can take a look at my Kalamazoo page on this blog. There’s a lot there but this post from 2010 captures why I like it as well as any of them. There have been a few changes over the past few years (the free wine used to double as furniture polish, I’m certain of it, and now it’s fairly passable) but most of it’s reasonably accurate.

I’ve been to 8 or 9 of these since my first Congress in 2001(I think) and always enjoy myself. I had a hot streak from 2009-2012 where I made four in a row but missed the last two years. I’m looking forward to this year though I need to control my book-buying. Unfortunately, I’ve said that before.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Conferences

 

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2014 Kalamazoo Registration is Up

The online registration for the 49th annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University is open. This year’s Congress will be held May 8-11 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Great conference which I always enjoy though I wasn’t able to make it last year and it’s questionable if I’ll get there this year, though I have hopes.

If anyone wants way more information than you probably want to read, you can check out my Kalamazoo page for recruitment posts, tips, and summaries from the past three times I’ve attended. Wonderful event and a lot of fun. I encourage you to attend if you can.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Conferences

 

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A Few Kalamazoo Thoughts

I’m recently back from a conference in DC which confirms what I’d strongly suspected; that I will not be attending Kalamazoo this year. I’ve made the last four in a row, a personal record, and hopefully I’ll make it in 2014. Booksellers, don’t go into mourning or anything, I’m still buying, just not in that kind of bulk quantity.

I had time to visit the Holocaust Museum and then Gettysburg on my way back but neither of those are remotely medieval. Instead, for those of you attending Kalamazoo for the first time, I’ll point you to my pre-2012 post which includes some tips and links to more comprehensive, earlier comments. As usual, there are a couple of significant edits. First, Wi-Fi was available in most of the dorm rooms last year and the snack bar in Schneider was open through Saturday. Not to say that the selection is great but you can ingest calories.

Of course if you want to read more than you could ever want, there’s my main Kalamazoo page which has quite a few posts covering the last three years.

Hopefully I’ll get back to more regular posting soon but no promises. Things are a bit crazy right now, though it’s a good sort of crazy.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2013 in Conferences

 

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2013 Congress Registration Up and Book Buying II

I really must update my Book Buying Posts. I’ve made way more than two of these but didn’t decide to number them until recently.

In any case, the first part of this post is to mention that the online registration for the 2013 International Congress on Medieval Studies to be held May 9-12 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is now open. And yes, I was almost weepy when I saw this. Chances are good I won’t make it this year. I won’t know for sure until April and my attendance is possible, but unlikely. Still, I’ve had a run of 4 years straight, the best I’ve done since I started attending back in 2001.

In order to make this up to myself I just bought six books from an Oxford University Press Sale. Only one of those was something I’d previously wishlisted but I bought all of them at 50% or 65% off. Not bad.

Here’s the list:


  • Architects of Piety: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Cult of the Martyrs by Vasiliki Limberis (this was my wishlisted book)
  • Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman
  • Foreign Cults in Rome: Creating a Roman Empire by Eric Orlin
  • The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture, 100 C.E. – 350 C.E.: Texts on Education and Their Late Antique Context by Marc Hirshman
  • The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy by Paul F. Bradshaw
  • Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity by Shelly Matthews

My version of comfort food.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Books, Conferences

 

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2013 Kalamazoo Schedule Now Online

For those who want to get an early look, the Schedule for the 2013 International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University is available online.

Unfortunately, chances are very good that I won’t be able to make it this year because of a project I’m working on. Then again, I’ve made it four years running, a personal best since I’ve been attending. And I really do have enough books.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo Page Update and a Now Familiar Problem With Books

I just updated my Kalamazoo Page to add all of my 2012 posts under one roof.

I also bought a couple more books on 1st-century Christianity. This stuff’s interesting. I’m gonna have to work at tearing myself away from it. I have half a dozen or so volumes on this and you’d think that would be enough but evidently it isn’t.

In order to remind myself of what I’m really into, I have an idea for a post about Visigothic Churches, based on a Journal of Early Christian Studies article. But I overdid it shoveling snow the other day so it’ll have to wait a bit while I spend most of today lying down with a heating pad on my back. Getting old sucks, but it beats the alternative.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Books, Conferences

 

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Kalamazoo 2012, the Final Day: Goths and Old Food Nicely Presented

Sunday at Kalamazoo was another dark, semi-drizzly day. Lots of people use this for a travel day but I’m fortunate since I live relatively nearby and can make Sunday sessions. These are often some of the best (this year is a good example of that) and I very much recommend it to those attending, if you can make it work. I have occasionally skipped the final session, as I did last year to get an early start or if I run into someone who needs a ride to the airport and doesn’t have one, but usually I stick around to the end. One other last-day benefit, which I haven’t taken advantage of in a while, are the book discounts.

In any case, after loading all my stuff (I think it was only two trips to the car this year) I headed back to Valley II for Session 520: Sixth-Century Italy: Representing the Gothic War. The first paper was by Brian Swain, a Phd candidate from The Ohio State University, “‘A modern-Day Empire Worthy of a Tragedy': Jordane’s Commentary on the Gothic War of Justinian.” This was something of a revisionist paper, which was fine by me. Recent scholarly opinion has come to view Jordanes as promoting an aggressive Roman/Byzantine policy toward the Goths and he is considered pro-Roman and anti-Goth (though I have read articles where Jordanes is considered to be arguing in favor of the legitimacy of Gothic rule in order to view the war as a legitimate effort by Justinian to battle Those Evil Arians and Defend Orthodox Christianity). Swain believes that Jordanes should not be viewed as pro or anti anyone – that he is more nuanced, particularly when you consider his Romana Breviarium along with the Getica. He provided a fairly detailed review of Jordanes where at various points in the two works he praises Justinian, casts doubt over Byzantine claims to dominion over the Goths, calls for the war to end through an agreement with the Goths, blames Justinian for its length and closes with a commentary on the ineptness of Roman rulers which could be interpreted as criticizing Justinian. I haven’t read the Getica in some time. Clearly I need to and also get my hands on the Romana Breviarium (if I don’t have it here already). I enjoyed this paper though it will take my reading the two sources to figure out whether I agree with it or not.

Next up was Jonathan J. Arnold presenting, “Manly Goths, Effeminate Romans.” Last year he gave a cool paper on Theoderic’s moustache. This year his topic was bit bit weightier (except when you look at the underlying theme of the prior year’s which was that of people over analyzing sources to sometimes find stuff that isn’t there). He opened with a quote from Walter Goffart’s Narrators of Barbarian History (I have this but haven’t read it yet) where Goffart uses a quote to demonstrate that Romans were portrayed as masculine, Goths as feminine/effeminate. Arnold believes that the quote Goffart uses supports this however if you examine Italian/Gothic sources, the reverse characterization is largely true. I’ll offer several examples (I have over a page of notes so I won’t give all of them). Ennodius has an epigram on Boethius where Boethius and the Romans are depicted as weenies (sorry – this is how I jotted it down in my notes) and Theoderic is described in a panegyric as warlike, a military victor, and has rescued Italy which has become weak and womanly under the Romans. Theoderic is masculine, strong and a manly man, including a speech to his mother where he is depicted as stating this outright. Through Theoderic a female Rome will be renewed, rescued by the masculine and warlike Goths. Cassiodorus celebrates Theoderic and the Goths as manly. The Goths are Italy’s defenders, trained as men of the God Mars. While there are a few good Roman men, overall Rome is militarily weak. Amalasuintha is depicted as a manly Goth who happens to be a woman and is contrasted with Galla Placidia who is too gentle and weakened Rome through peace. In contrast, in Jordanes’ Getica Amalasuintha is despised as weak and the manly Romans are victorious over the effeminate Goths. This was a very good paper with a lot of information.

I have another page-and-a-half of notes for the next paper by Tina Sessa of The Ohio State University, “Perceptions of War and Decline in Sixth-Century Italy.” Sessa was concerned with how the Christianization of Europe impacted viewpoints of war and how war impacted the evolution of Christianity. She stated that war cannot just be looked at in the context of attitudes but that impacts such as the loss of life and property and interactions of different societies must be considered. She used Gelasius’ depictions of the War between Odoacer and Theoderic in 489-93 to consider the war’s impacts. Based on Gelasius, barbarian violence was harmful, regardless of who was responsible. Churches were negatively impacted, including those in the south which really weren’t involved in the war. Among the Pope’s activities in response to war, he radically reduced the requirements for one to become a bishop due to need and a shortage of qualified clerics. He wrote to Palladius telling him to restore a deposed bishop, Stephanus, as his deformity was caused by war. She closed by discussing methodological issues in trying to figure out how to separate the rhetoric of war from the reality of war’s impacts on ecclesiastical life. My apologies for the weak summary. I recall this as being a very good paper but I’m afraid I haven’t done justice to it. And this was a very strong session overall. I don’t know if it was my absolute favorite but it ranks up there.

As did Session 571: Diet, Dining and Everyday Life: The Uses of Ceramics in the Third-to-Ninth-Century World. This session was a treasure. I’d decided earlier that due to my fascination with peasants I’d go to this over the final session on the Ostrogoths. I very nearly reconsidered considering the quality of the previous session but I ended up sticking to my plan and was glad I did, though I have 5 pages of notes for three papers which will make summarizing this a bit difficult. There were a few common points for all three papers; residual evidence of food is extremely rare, enough so as to make it nearly useless; faunal evidence (remnants from animals) can be unreliable for a variety of reasons including decomposition rates of different remains and scavengers, however it is often necessary to rely on it while recognizing the limitations and; pictorial and textual evidence often presents an idealized version of life. Also, none of the papers covered anything later than the seventh century.

Andrea Achi from the New York University Institute of Fine Arts opened with, “And How did They Eat: An Investigation of Food Storage, Processing, and Consumption Patterns in a Late Antique Household.” She gave a detailed description of a portion of the Dakhla, Egypt archaeological site, in particular evidence for food storage, preparation and consumption in an elite household, headed by one Serenos. On the site they found a large storage room filled with small bowls of varying sizes. They also found platters for shared, family style dining. Cooking pots were of fairly uniform size however cooking bowls were more varied. They did not find any large serving platters leading to the thought that these may have been made of more valuable materials than the locally produced ceramics. A couple of interesting notes were that as bones showed no evidence of burning, meat was probably either boiled or braised. There was an absence of extensive ovens in the home leading researchers to believe that the home may not have been used for cooking, just for reheating. However they do not know where the food was prepared. Possibly there were communal ovens which have not been found or they may have used a second floor of the house, which has now been destroyed. Beyond that, these folks ate well, produced their ceramics locally, except for amphorae, and weren’t too particular about what they did with bones. And if I ever read much on Late Antique Egypt I need to find a copy of Roger Bagnall, ed., The Kellis Agricultural Account Book.

More artifacts were in store when Elizabeth de Ridder Raubolt of the University of Missouri-Columbia presented, “Art and Artifact at the Late Antique Communal Meal.” I really enjoyed this one. She used a combination of archaeological and textual evidence to discuss how meals were conducted in the 4th through 6th centuries. Meals were taken reclining on a large, curved couch with a center table accessible to all diners where each person could see and speak to the others. There was a hierarchy of diners with the most important placed at either end. Large platters seem to have been important in elite dining however ceramics came to be more frequently used as time went on and it has been argued that African Red Slip (ARS) platters may have replaced silver in Christian households. Later in the period ARS becomes less common, being found only in the larger sizes, not used for smaller bowls, indicating possible problems with supply. Good paper and she used a lot of images to illustrate her points.

RossanoGospelsLastSupper
Image of the Last Supper from the Rossano(6th century Italy) Gospels. Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Note Judas reaching for food, his eyes cast down while the others all show reverence towards Christ.

The final paper of this session and, for me, the 47th Congress, was “Pots and Pantries: Correlating Cooking Ware with Dining Habits in Visigothic Spain by Scott de Brestian of Central Michigan University. I have a ton of notes for this one however he covered two primary themes for the period from the end of Roman rule to the early 7th century. One was whether the type of cooking ware used is a good indicator of what was eaten and the other was what changes in cooking ware could tell us about society. He mainly looked at two types of ceramics; casseroles, which were broad, flat, two-handled baking trays and; ollas which were large cooking pots which could be suspended by the neck over a fire and were used for slow cooking and for boiling meat. Traditionally ollas have been linked with eating pork while casseroles to eating sheep and goat. In the interior of Spain very few casseroles were found, almost all ollas, with a couple of exceptions. However faunal evidence indicates that while pigs were a substantial portion of the diet, they ate more sheep and goat. In addition, in Sainte-Blaise in Southern Gaul, ollas comprised 26% of 5th-6th century finds and 40% in the 7th century but faunal evidence indicates no significant dietary change. Brestian believes there is little evidence that looking at the types of pots used is a valid way of determining what was eaten.

Another area he covered was ceramic quality. About 50% of early 5th century cookware was improved Terragona. This declined to 15-20% by the 7th century. Over time, the use of African Red Slip pottery also declined. These were replaced by locally produced imitations. This decline shows a loss of wealth and also a decline in competition. The wealthy had fewer competitors and it took less of a display to demonstrate their status. Where previously elites possessed the entire range of high status vessels, now they used a selection. The one exception to this seems to be the Visigothic kings who had all vessels, demonstrating that elite dining rituals were now something expected of the king, not all elites. Another good paper accompanied by a lot of images which I haven’t captured adequately, and a very good session.

In place of a K’zoo summary post, I’ll throw in a quick paragraph here. I had a good time and went to some really good sessions. The accommodations continue to improve, especially with Wi-fi in most rooms. I was also more social than the previous year which was nice. As of now I’ve made four of these in a row, a record for me. Unfortunately, I’d say the odds are against my being able to attend next year. I think I’ll have a big May conflict and will probably take a year off. That’s OK, it’s not like I’m about to run out of books any time soon. Look for my 2012 posts to make it to my Kalamazoo page in the near future.

 

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