Tag Archives: Another Damned Medievalist

Saturday at Kalamazoo: Monks and Goths

Following breakfast Saturday morning I headed back to the exhibit area and spent an hour or so at Powell’s, finishing up my book purchasing. Then I headed for Schneider and Session 376, Contexts of Early Medieval Monasticism I: Architectural Concepts. Before I begin I want to mention that the organizers had put together a booklet which included abstracts of all three Contexts of Early Medieval Monasticism Sessions. Even though I only went to one of these, it provided me with some information which may prove useful once I finish my Early Christianity Reading.

First up was Gregor Kalas from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville presenting, “The Residences of Carolingian Abbots and the Afterlife of the Late Antique Villa.” This was a really interesting paper. Kalas opened with a discussion of the Plan of St. Gall showing how the Abbot was expected to live in his own house, not communally. This was supported by the Aachen synod of 817 where Benedict of Aniane amended the Benedictine Rule to have some separation from the community. This separation mimics the villa plan where the owner and his family live in a residence separated from the rest of the estate. Farfa and San Vincenzo al Volturno are examples of monasteries which were formerly villas. The Plan of St. Gall, with its private residence for the Abbot and a private route to the basilica seems to have been modeled after villa construction. Ultimately, Kalas believes that Late Antique villas provided models for monastery plans and that by the 9th century an abbot’s residence could be considered a less luxurious villa. An interesting factoid (to me anyway) was his discussion of Farfa where in the 8th century the abbot lived as something of a recluse but by the 9th century they became increasingly worldly, which he attributes to the evolving relationship with the Carolingian rulers where the monastery became subject to greater royal control and a reduced Papal influence. Good paper and I’m hoping what he talked about is published someplace so I can get a closer look at his evidence.

Kirsten Ataoguz of Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne (IPFW for those of us in Indiana and yes, other than in basketball Purdue and IU collaborate a LOT!) followed with, “Overlapping Contexts of the Last Judgement at the Monastery of Saint John in Müstair, Switzerland.” Now I have a page-and-a-half of notes for this one. Even so, I have a feeling this summary will suffer as much from temporal distance as any because she showed a lot of really cool images which I can’t precisely recall – oh, for an eidetic memory. Müstair is one of several 9th century churches in the Alps with a similar image of the Last Judgement. This image tells a story (in looking for images in Müstair, the Last Judgement is just a piece, though an essential one, of the frescoes in the church) showing Christ as judge. He is depicted as the gatekeeper to an apostolic city (a local apostle, Vigilius, is among those shown) and with his right hand up and left hand down shows that he will choose between the saved and damned. These images, prominently displayed in the church, are for the benefit of the laity, not the monks. Ataoguz discussed how this type of story-telling differed from very literal eastern representations. Due to the prevalence of similar images in local 9th century churches she believes it is very possible that this type of representation originated in the region. Another very good paper.

Saint John Monastery in Mustair, Switzerland

Monastery of Saint John in Mustair, Switzerland. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The final paper was by Annika Rulkens from the University van Amsterdam, “Monastic or Not? The Architecture of Rural Churches in Ninth-Century Hessen.” This was a comparative examination of the architecture of churches to support her thesis that smaller churches should be considered monastic. She believes that smaller satellite churches of Fulda and Sturm, built from the mid-eighth through mid-ninth century were modeled after the larger Abbey churches. These churches were built with the approval of the mother house and while she does not believe they were directed to use similar architecture, they chose to do so. Again, lots of images used for this paper which I don’t recall well enough to describe here.

For lunch I had the opportunity to sample the marvelous cuisine in Schneider (said menu choices consisted of pre-wrapped sandwiches – still better than past years and it provided calories) and chatted with The Cranky Professor (TCP) and ADM. Actually, ADM was working for the most part but I had a lot of fun with TCP. I had sort of a theme for the week I went with which was pretty much, “The way I do my job is very different from you,” With an emphasis on the fact that Purdue does not expect me to know how to write – we have a communications department which edits everything we put together. At the time I was in the middle of putting together a fairly short publication which seemed to be taking forever to finish (seriously – I took maybe 12 hours to write the draft, which was 95% of the end product). I’m pretty good at laughing at myself and TCP was willing to join in. I’m in the middle of a 150-page agrosecurity project right now and I dread how long that one will take.

I went Goth for the rest of the day, starting with Session 429, Early Medieval Europe II. Louis Shwartz, a Phd candidate from the University of Toronto opened with, “What Rome Owes to the Lombards: Devotion to Saint Michael in Early Medieval Italy and the Riddle of Castel Sant’Angelo.” Michelle Ziegler has already covered this paper nicely and I don’t have much to add. In talking about why Saint Michael came to be associated with Sant’Angelo he discusses mentions of him in Paul the Deacon and believes that ultimately Saint Michael’s association with the church likely dates from Cunibert who was King from 688-700 and Liutprand who succeeded him. Cunibert was a strong promoter of Saint Michael and when Liutprand allied himself with the Papacy and converted the Lombards, this association was solidified. Good paper and be sure to read Michelle’s more detailed summary.

Erica Buchberger, a Phd student from the University of Oxford followed with, “Gothic Identity in Spain Before and After the Arab Conquest.” She believes (and I agree with her) that people identifying themselves as Goths disappeared fairly quickly after the Arab Conquests. I regret that I didn’t write down the specific sources she used however she argued that examples of people identifying themselves as Gothic is hard to find after the end of the 7th century. In narratives, Goths disappear as an entity after 754 and afterwards people may say that they were of Gothic descent but they did not identify themselves as Goths. She believes this may have been a sign of loyalty; that they were true to their heritage but loyal to their Arab rulers. However she did say that in the North Gothic identity lasted longer and can be found up to 883 in a chronicle (again, I apologize for not noting which one).

The final paper was by Helen Foxhall Forbes of the University of Leicester, “Suicides and the Damned in Anglo-Saxon England.” I recall this being a very interesting paper though it was as much about damnation overall as about the attitude toward suicides. However it is interesting that A-S sources almost never mentioned contemporary suicides but instead focused on those taking place in the past and that suicide is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon law codes. Aelfric speaks strongly against suicide and one of the Vercelli Homilies states that “Jews, heathens and suicides” won’t be saved. According to the Old English Penitential and the OE Handbook the body of a suicide cannot be sung over or buried in consecrated ground. In contrast, the Blickling Homily states that a murderer can be saved and there was an Old English belief that even an executed criminal could be saved. Aelfric disapproves of priests fighting and says that one killed in battle will not be prayed for but may be buried in consecrated ground and that he will be judged by God. Good stuff in this one.

Following this I headed to Valley II and Session 461, Sixth-Century Italy I: Representing the Ostrogothic Kingdom. I was very pleased to see the sessions on the Ostrogoths this year, in particular that they were organized by Deborah Deliyannis of Indiana University. I decided I was a fan of hers after reading Ravenna in Late Antiquity last year.

The first scheduled speaker didn’t arrive so Shane Bjornlie of Claremont McKenna College started things off with “Princeps Illiteraturs: The Political Polemic of the Gothic War and Sources for Theoderic the Great.” This paper discussed how Theoderic was portrayed after his death, primarily during the Gothic War. It was a detailed examination of the sources which, while unsurprising in content, was quite interesting and informative. As might be expected, sources such as Ennodius and Cassiodorus portrayed him as a successful ruler of a Roman province while sources associated with Justinian’s court such as Procopius and Marcellinus Comes depicted him as an illegitimate barbarian. The Anonymous Valesianus describes Theoderic’s death as being the same as Arius’ with his bowels bursting as he was relieving himself. While there wasn’t anything particularly revolutionary here, I enjoyed it because of how many sources were covered, including later ones such as Gregory the Great, Fredegar and Paul the Deacon.

Another paper dealing extensively with sources and Theoderic followed as Christine Radtke of The University zu Kõln presented, “Theoderic the Great: Auctor Civilitas, Pius Princeps, Virtuous King.” With the help of a very useful handout she covered the various ways in which Theoderic was portrayed as a legitimate Roman ruler. These included Ennodius’ Panegyricus where he is praised in a fairly standard way as a successor of the Roman Emperors. On the Senigallia Medallion (the only certain image we have of Theoderic) he is titled as Rex and Princeps, titles by which he would have wanted to be known. In Cassiodorus’ Variae, each letter shows a different aspect of Theoderic as ruler and as a whole they stress his civilitas and depict him as someone highly engaged with the past to legitimize his rule and portray him as a Gothic ruler interested in peaceful cooperation between Romans and Goths. I don’t think there was anything new, different or surprising in either of these papers but I appreciated both of them for their examination of the sources.

Following this session I headed back to the exhibit area to pick up my book purchases. I’ve gotten better at this over the years and now I rarely leave one behind. It was interesting to find that several publishers are aware of this blog and one person told me that she appreciated my book reviews, particularly when it was one of theirs. Possessing a book from Brill and folks recognizing me all in the same day? That put me in happy camper mode, a good attitude to have when I went to the Pseudo Society Session, had a sub and some beer for dinner (I’d had enough pizza for one week the previous evening) and laughed for a couple of hours. As always, I don’t report on Pseudo, mainly because you have to be there to appreciate it but all of the “papers” were good though I don’t think any make my Hall of Fame.

That was enough for me as I skipped the dance, as I do every year, and made it to bed fairly early, only rarely being woken up by the late partying which went on in the courtyard outside my window. Probably didn’t hurt that it was cold enough that said window was closed.


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Thursday at Kalamazoo: Books, Sessions and Bloggers

Before I get started I want to mention that if anyone happens to read these and feels that I’ve been inaccurate, please either e-mail me or comment. I’ve been corrected plenty of times. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Thursday morning I went to breakfast and ran into a friend who was among a group of people Paul Gans first dragged to Kalamazoo over ten years ago. By 8:00, as has been the case for every Kalamazoo since I began attending, I was at the doorway of the exhibit area. I don’t have any cute stories about hunting for specific books like last year. I did meet an individual who I’d interacted with on Library Thing, David Kathman. Of course I then had to inform him that as he was talking about the 14th century I wouldn’t be hearing his paper in favor of a session organized by Ralph Mathisen. Somehow Dave managed to go on living (I know this because I saw him again Sunday).

After the usual perusal of half-price Ashgates, $5 Penguins, etc., I walked up to the Bernhard Center for Session 43, “Medieval Environments I: Food Shortage and Subsistence Crises in Medieval Europe”, which has also been discussed by Michelle Ziegler. Choosing sessions is always interesting. In picking where I was going pre-conf, I had thought I might not go to a Thursday morning session as nothing seemed that interesting to me. More time for books, right? But the night before, as I was marking my brand new program book, I found this one and wondered why I wouldn’t have wanted to attend it. I just pulled out my original book and I hadn’t identified this as a possibility. I have no idea why.

Kathy Pearson of Old Dominion opened with, “After the ‘Fall’: Feeding Rome in the Early Middle Ages.” This was a discussion of the food supply for the city of Rome in the 6th and 7th centuries. She discussed how, while Rome’s population from the period of Justinian’s Gothic Wars was radically reduced from that of the Empire, it was still substantial. With an estimated population of 25,000 to 40,000 it was the largest city in Western Europe at the time, and periodically it would swell significantly due to pilgrims and refugees. She discussed evidence of trade networks (diminished but still present) such as from North Africa and Sicily, the existence of papal estates, demolition of buildings within the walls in favor of arable ground, and crop yield estimates. This paper was heavy with information. Ultimately, Pearson believes that it is likely that as much as half of the land area within the walls was used for agricultural production. If this is the case she believes that if the population of the city was 25,000, then the city (this includes the surrounding countryside) would have been nearly self-sufficient, however with a population of 40,000 Rome would have needed to rely on larger networks.

From Tim Newfield of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor we received a new look at the Carolingians in “Shortages and Population Trends in Carolingian Europe, ca. 750-c.950.” Newfield believes that theories describing a fairly steady population growth during the Carolingian period should be regarded with caution. His main thesis is that the Carolingian Empire was subject to fairly regular and significant food shortages, which he divided into two categories; famines and lesser shortages. I won’t include all of his information however he identified 10 famines from 762/4-939/44 and 12 lesser shortages from 752-919, usually the result of unfavorable weather. He believes that these food crises would have generated in a strong demographic response, likely in the range of a 5-20% population reduction, and that while a post-shortage baby boom was likely, population recovery would have required twice the duration of the shortage (for a 2-year shortage it would take 4 years to regain the lost population). He believes that in order for relatively continuous growth to have taken place shortages must have occurred a minimum of 5-9 years apart while he believes it is very likely that they were more frequent. This was an interesting paper. There seems to be a growing body of evidence which shows that things may not have been quite as good during the Carolingian period as has sometimes been argued. I’m hopeful that a form of this paper shows up in EME or another journal where he can provide more details. The validity of this paper hinges on the quality of its information, particularly regarding the shortages, which there’s little time to explore in a 20-25 minute paper.

I can’t help wondering if the later time period for the final paper was the cause of my not identifying this as a session to attend. In any case, Philip Slavin of McGill University took us into the later Middle Ages with, “Alternative Consumption: Fodder and Fodder Resources in Late Medieval English Economy, ca. 1250-1450.” Slavin examined the use of fodder in feeding draft animals, how these changed over time, and what these changes may indicate. He divided fodder into two categories; grassland, consisting of pasture and meadow hay and; crops, consisting of oats, legumes and straw. 1 There are some interesting changes which took place during this period which he discussed with the help of some useful charts and graphs. One of these was that in 1300 over 2/3 of all fodder was sold by Lords with the remainder being fed while by 1400 roughly half was sold. He believes this points to a decline in the demesne economy and a possible increase in peasant wealth. Between 1300 and 1400 the percentage of oats in rations declined radically while pasturage and hay fed increased, indicating a shift of land from arable to pasturage, possibly due to a labor shortage. As a result of the reduction in the level of oats fed, animals became weaker, something he believes is supported by archaeological evidence from Wharram-Percy as this has revealed skeletal pathologies in animals including lesions and weakened bones.

This was a very good session and made my forgetting my program book well worth the trouble. This session was sponsored by the Environmental History Network for the Middle Ages (ENFORMA), a group I may have to keep an eye on. They sponsored several other sessions during Congress though this is the only one I made.

Following this session I headed back to the Exhibit area to resume my prowl through the books. I found that in addition to Ashgate and Cambridge selling books at 50% off, Brill had the same discount for its display copies, resulting in me finally owning one of their volumes. Yes, I have indeed arrived. I made it through a bit less than half the exhibit and decided Loome might take too much time so I returned to Bernhard, had some lunch and headed to Session 95, “The Ties That Bound I: Early Medieval Prosopography”.

Unfortunately only one of the three presenters made it to this session. However the one paper, “Becoming Barbarian: An Examination of Stilicho in Fifth-Century Latin Sources” by Deanna Forsman of North Hennepin Community College was very good and made the walk worthwhile. She discussed source mentions and descriptions of Stilicho to assess his historical portrayal as a barbarian rather than as a Roman. A portion of this was a comparative analysis of Stilicho and Aetius. She had a really good slide which showed substantial parallels between the two, yet Aetius is generally referred to as a Roman while Stilicho is not. In examining the literature, Forsman found that source material is generally positive about Stilicho and almost all refer to him as a Roman. The only negative depictions come after Stilicho’s death and of those, only Orosius refers to him as a barbarian and he is the sole source for his being considered half Vandal. 2 Forsman believes that Jerome’s reference should be interpreted as Stilicho being called semi-barbarian, like a barbarian, or even equating to “barbarian-lover”, not that he was half barbarian as this has commonly been interpreted as. 3 Even Rutilius Namatianus, in a vituperative condemnation, doesn’t refer to Stilicho as anything but Roman.

Ultimately Forsman does not believe it likely that Stilicho was referred to as a barbarian while alive and that his being half Vandal is somewhere between unproven and unlikely. Stilicho certainly thought of himself as Roman and the bulk of the sources seem to support him. Good paper and Forsman gave an excellent presentation. There is a followup question of why, with so little evidence for this, did Stilicho come to be known as a barbarian? I can make a couple of conjectures (for example, Orosius wrote his Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri septem at the request of Augustine who may have helped disseminate this) but nothing concrete.

Next I looked outside, didn’t see a shuttle and set out for Valley III for my next session. I think this was the trek which woke my hip up. I can walk a long time with no trouble at an amble but when I need to push the pace a little it doesn’t take long for it to start speaking to me. I went to a four-paper session and I only have notes which would allow me to post a coherent summary of one of these. I have a bunch of data points but not much in the way of the overall themes or messages of the presentations. This was a 3:30 session which is a low energy time for me, at least when I’m short of sleep but I don’t recall dozing off or even having a hard time concentrating (as opposed to a session Saturday – not sure if I’ll mention that when I get to it). However I’m afraid I can’t offer much in the way of useful summaries so I’ll just leave this one alone entirely.

In any case, once the session ended I dropped my notepad in my room and headed to the Valley III registration area for the Blogger Meet-up. We hung around in the lobby for a bit before heading to the room. I’ve previously mentioned the Bloggers who were there but I think I left out one. At least I think Lisa Carnell has a blog, titled The View from Kalamazoo.

Several folks who don’t (but should) blog were in attendance. I’m not sure on the protocol for this so I’ll leave them unmentioned but I did appreciate meeting them. ADM did a nice job organizing this. Good snacks, a couple of wine selections and a variety of beer choices. We hung around, told stories/lies and I started to trot out what would become my 2012 Kalamazoo conversational theme, a combination of, “How I go about doing my job is very different from you,” with a liberal dose of, “My University doesn’t expect me to know how to write.” This last isn’t completely true but we have communications people who review our more formal pieces before they are unleashed on the general public. I only thought of this because at the time I thought I was meeting with my Comm. staff person and a graphics designer on the Tuesday after K’zoo (said meeting has been pushed back to this coming Friday) about a publication I’m currently working on.

There were also some creative ideas for new blogs which I shall allow to remain in the room for the time being. However Vaulting had a really good one which I think she should have a go at. We had a bit more time than at last year’s meetup, or at least this seemed to be the case. Afterwards several folks headed for Postmedieval’s “Burn After Reading” session which I had originally intended to make but following a couple of beers and with my hip making a bit of a commotion I decided to head for my room instead where, after putting together a quick update post, I went to bed.

1. I was surprised that oats were considered fodder as today they are classified as feed concentrates as opposed to roughages such as hay, pasture and silage.

2. I was unprepared when I first read Orosius on Stilicho (I believe this wasn’t long after reading Claudian so that may be the reason) but in 7.38 of his Seven Books of History Against the Pagans he comes down on him hard, accusing him of using Alaric and other barbarians as a tool to terrify Rome and of plotting to place his son on the throne and restore paganism (a bit contradictory re Namatianus accusing him of destroying the Sybilline Books). At one time up to 8-10 years ago I had this half-formed notion that if Stilicho hadn’t been assassinated the Roman Empire would likely have survived. I have since reformed my thinking (though if he actually had killed Honorius and been successful in placing himself or his son on the throne the possibilities remain interesting to think about).

3 This is in Jerome’s letter 123.17, where he asks Ageruchia, a wealthy widow, to not remarry. My version is from the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Second Series, Philip Schaff, ed., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson (2012) and says, “This humiliation [payment to Alaric’s Goths] has been brought upon her [Rome] not by the fault of her Emperors who are both most religious men, but by the crime of a half-barbarian traitor who with our money has armed our foes against us.” Unfortunately this does not have an accompanying Latin original (the Loeb editon of selected letters didn’t select this one). I’ve found myself increasingly wanting to check translations against the original and this is one of several Congress papers which sent me looking.


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Kalamazoo 2012 – Day One; The Arrival, Accommodations and Other Miscellany

Folks will be getting sick of me posting about Kalamazoo, if they aren’t already, and this one will have almost no educational content. However I want to get this out while it’s fresh on my mind, particularly since there were some significant changes which I think reflect favorably Lisa Carnell and the Congress organizers. Lisa is flat-out awesome. I’m annually impressed with what she puts together. In some ways this post follows the format of Jonathan Jarrett’s recollection of his first Kalamazoo experience.

I had some trouble getting away from home, which led to minor troubles once I arrived. Literally half an hour before I’d planned to depart I received a call about a major snafu regarding a program I’m hosting this week. I won’t go into details but basically the site where I was bringing a hundred or so attendees, several pieces of equipment and several speakers to was no longer available. The host site had a very good reason for this and there’s no blame here but I had to find an alternate site and notify speakers and attendees. This helped me to forget several items, among those being my Kalamazoo Program Book, which is essential. I realized this was absent literally on arrival. There’s a simple fix – buy a new one – but I also had to go through it and re-mark which sessions I was planning to attend. And somehow I managed to forget deodorant. This may not have mattered much to me but I’m fairly certain it would have to those around me. Luckily I have wheels so at about 10:00 I found a grocery store open (the first I came to had already closed which began to concern me) and took care of that issue. I also had thought I might pop by a winery to help ADM a bit with the Blogger Meetup but this didn’t happen either. In essence, I had a bit more stress on leaving, left later than I’d wanted to, brought work with me, contrary to my plans, and was without a few items, though I did remember my soap dish.

Shortly after getting to my room and on discovering that I could not give myself a deodorant “booster shot” (do people really want to read this? how mundane some aspects of us as a species are) I decided my attitude needed some help and I went down to the wine hour sponsored by Witan Publishing and Scott Nokes. There I had my first of several Cullen Chandler encounters and I enjoyed briefly chatting with him. I had initially thought I’d run into town Thursday morning but instead I ran up to my room and did an inventory; toothbrush-check, razor-check, shampoo-check, etc. On finding that deodorant was indeed the only personal hygiene item I was lacking, I made my town run (don’t worry, I’d had just one of those little plastic cups of wine so I think I was safe). On returning I filled in my shiny new program book with sessions to attend the following day and made my bed, thus ending day one. Now on to some accommodations/amenities details.

The food has improved. The dining hall meals were as I remembered them, however the snack bar in Schneider was open through the week where in the past it was only open Thursday. This is a major improvement. The food there isn’t exactly good – you grab a sandwich which has been pre-made and sealed in plastic – however it is a way of consuming calories without having to run off if you happen to have your last morning and first afternoon session in Schneider, as I did on Saturday. Bernhard has a complete food court with multiple options (long lines but you have two hours for lunch).

The provided soap was brand-name. I always bring my own soap as I have literally dozens of little bars of the stuff at home from hotel stays and might as well use it up – same for shampoo(I actually like the stuff Sheraton provides, maybe I’m weird) – but I was impressed by this anyway. My bed/mattress was the best I’ve ever had there. They had bolted plywood to the bedframe to eliminate the pesky sagging issue and I actually had a real mattress, not one of those thin foam things. I also had two beds which always helps as a location to put books.

Wireless Internet access is now available in most of the dorm rooms. There were only a couple of dorms without and happily mine received it. I have a feeling as I read other reports that this will be HUGE. Of course there was the inevitable letdown when I returned home to 3G access through my aircard but it’s not Kalamazoo’s fault that I live in Siberia/rural Central Indiana. The same held true for the exhibit area. Most used digital credit card readers. I only had a couple of mechanical card swipes.

Now a word of caution. Among the items I forgot was my leg weights. Since my hip replacement I have some exercises I do and even 5 months post-op, doing these absolutely makes a difference. If I ever forget them again for four days and have wheels I’m finding a sporting goods store; for some reason I didn’t think of this until I was driving home. I walked to sessions Thursday and realized this was about all I wanted to put the hip through once I’d come back from Bernhard to a late afternoon Valley Session. However I didn’t want to drive for some reason. I soon found that the shuttle service is fine to get to things first thing in the morning, and fine for the two-hour lunch break, but on Friday I tried to use it to get from Bernhard to Schneider in the half hour between the two afternoon sessions (my hip was speaking to me rather loudly at the time) and ended up walking in late to that session (where the speaker I really wanted to hear was not in attendance, more on absent speakers later). I hate walking in late. It’s rude and disrespectful and shows a lack of concern for the others in the room. Sometimes this is unavoidable. For instance, a speaker may end up talking to several folks following their session and just not be able to make it. I had no such excuse though the young lady whose talk I walked in on accepted my apology graciously. In any case, that was the last time I used the shuttle for the half hour between sessions. This is likely more my fault than theirs and I don’t want to come across as blaming anyone for it but offer this for future reference as to what the shuttle can and can’t do. I ended up making at least one “half trip” (usually back to Valley) each day. It was OK and there was never any risk of any injury/harm, it was just uncomfortable, particularly when I had to set a decent pace.

So the accommodations were improved (my camping with walls reference may no longer be applicable), as were the meal options. The wine and free coffee service continue to be good; I only availed myself of the coffee Saturday morning following my ill-advised pizza and beer dinner when I had no interest in breakfast.

I’ll follow with posts on sessions and what I did Thurs-Sun in the coming weeks. If I recall anything to add regarding facilities/accommodations/amenities I’ll insert those but I think this is most of it. Lisa Carnell and the Conference Committee deserve a lot of credit for continuing to work to improve Congress. I was pleasantly surprised by a number of things.


Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Conferences


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Kalamazoo Friday/Saturday Update

I just finished grabbing my books from the exhibit area and have a few minutes to kill before heading to dinner and then the Pseudo Session. Speaking of dinner I was reminded last night (actually the reminder came this morning) that I’m closing in on 50, recently received a new hip and my metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

I was coming back from the Digital Poster Session at 8 or so last night and as I’m about to enter the dorm I hear three grad students saying that they hadn’t gotten to Bilbo’s and they’d heard that was a must. Now I wasn’t about to take them there because, while I like grad students there’s a difference between that and wanting to cart three I don’t know all over Kalamazoo. Besides, I figured there would be no way of getting a table Friday night anyway. But I hadn’t eaten and I offered to split a pizza with them (of course they still haven’t been to Bilbo’s). All this was fine but I’ve spent the better part of the day feeling like my system was out of whack. Pumping that much salt, topped with beer, into my system had me drinking water non-stop all day and not eating a whole lot. Things are right with the world again but I think a salad’s going to be my main course tonight.

I had a chance to chat with The Cranky Professor(TCP) and ADM again today. ADM was getting work done but I had a lot of fun swapping stories with TCP. I’m always interested in how folks from different educational fields do their job because I can always learn something.

Beyond that, while it’s been raining lightly a bit today, the weather’s been excellent overall. If I’m not too tired when I get home, I’ll likely post tomorrow once I catalog the book haul.


Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Conferences


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Cool Stuff on Other Blogs II

I had a post I really wanted to get out before I leave tomorrow until realizing that it may generate some discussion and while I’ll have internet access, I should be near my books, depending on what questions or comments come up. It’s mostly written so I should get it out next weekend.

Since I have nothing else to offer, here are a few recent posts by other bloggers which have caught my attention.

Steve Muhlberger put up a post a week or so ago which I found very interesting. In the US at least, and this may be true of other countries in what we’d call Western Civilization, we have a tendency to think of an entire country as being of basically the same culture. I’d argue that while this is more true in the US than many places, it’s not absolute even here. His post is a nice reminder that multiculturalism is the rule, not the exception even today, and was so to an even greater extent in the past. When I started reading about the Crusades one of the things that struck me was how many different Arab groups there were and how this had such an impact on their initial inability to resist the crusaders and crusade states. They were very willing to enter an alliance with Christians if it gained them an advantage against a rival Arab group. The Crusades have often been portrayed as a simple “Christian vs Islam” struggle. It was much more complex than that.

This is a bit of an old song here but once again I’m impressed with the latest post by Jonathan Jarrett detailing his travels in Catalonia. This one, in addition to having a lot of excellent historical information, includes some great pictures.

Magistra et Mater has two very good posts detailing IHR Early Medieval Seminars. Between her and Jonathan I feel like we got the whole set of sessions. I’m particularly interested in the earlier of the two, discussing continuity with some comments on the use of evidence, two topics I’m really interested in. I started to reply to that post three (I think) times and each time I got to over a hundred words with more to say – too long for a post comment, even for an over-writer like me. Her second post, on the, sort of, survival of free speech into the Middle Ages is also interesting and has its own implications for continuity.

Michelle Ziegler has two good blogs, Heavenfield and Contagions. She recently put up a post discussing her thoughts on Cuthbert’s impact on Aldfrith’s succession to the English throne in the late 7th century. Contagions is good if you’re interested in a more scientific discussion of diseases and their evolution, spread, and impacts. She also periodically puts up summaries of what other people are blogging about – and I’m not saying this just because I received a mention in her latest one! It’s a good way to find out what people are talking about.

My final reading suggestion isn’t exactly about history but about how to do academic work. Another Damned Medievalist and Notorious PhD have started an online writing group. I’ve been following this and find it very interesting. I debated signing up but my current major writing project is much more along the lines of “unwriting.” I have been asked to take elements of a two-hour presentation I’ve given probably two dozen times over the past 2 years and break it down into several 1,000-2,000 word publications, along the lines of fact sheets. I decided not to curse the group with this particular task.

However I’ve been following the discussion and I think, even by lurking, I’m going to learn a lot. The folks in this group are so much more disciplined than I. It’s also interesting to see, once again, how very different humanities presentations are from those in my field. I received an e-mail yesterday asking me to give an hour-long presentation on June 30. Now it’s on a topic I’m very familiar with but I’ve never presented on it before. If I had to present it from an academic paper, I don’t think I could get that put together in less than three weeks, however well I know the topic. But I’m going to create an outline, flesh it out, develop a powerpoint (I don’t read from ppt’s – I use them like I used index cards in the pre-digital age) and am very comfortable with being able to do that, though this has changed what I’ll be doing on my flight tomorrow. Anyway, if you are involved with writing, I encourage you to keep an eye on this discussion. Very good stuff.

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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Other Blogs


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