May 7th, 2006

Fishy Circumstances

Saturday at Kalamazoo

One perennially unobtainable goal at the medieval congress is enough sleep. Receptions last well into the evening and it's so easy to be sidetracked talking to a new acquaintance or long-lost friend when otherwise en route to sleep. So my Saturday began very nicely with a nap, a fine start to a very good day.

After buying a modest two books at the bookroom, I ran off to the Avista business meeting. If any of you work on food technologies in the Middle Ages, do let me know - I'm now organizing a session for Avista on it for next year.

The afternoon was fabulous: how could I resist a panel comprised of Chris Given-Wilson and Terry Jones? Neither could several hundred other people. I perched on a step. Given-Wilson is hilarious, and argued, among other things, that the Wilton Diptych* is a paean to virginity - everyone depicted in it is a virgin. This logically led to speculation on what the collective noun for a group of virgins might be. Also, "Richard" was a name only given to younger sons - it wasn't a kingly name. Jones spoke with alarming rapidity, but his well-labeled Powerpoint was easy to follow: Richard II was a good, responsible monarch, and all this talk about being a tyrant is besmirchment by Henry IV. Afterwards, there was wild applause, and then a book signing.

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Fishy Circumstances

Sunday at Kalamazoo

The papers in "Science and Technology in the Medieval Romance" were unified by discussions of humoral theory, as applied to romantic and non-romantic interactions in medieval romances. Both papers presented close readings of parts of romances in enlightening ways. Hot women are manly women.

I joined S.W. and A-from-London for a bit of superficial, last minute book browsing of the last morning's heavy discounts. Fifty percent off the used book price of the book on the Venetian mint was enough to get me to buy it. Peanut butter and jelly: a comfort food lunch, exotic (and thought unfortunate) in the UK.

And then everyone left. Postered came down. Desks were cleaned. Paperwork processed. Booths shut down. I loitered and talked to Karl the Grouchy Medievalist and others. The weirdest moment was when a woman sat down to join us, introducing herself as the financial manager of two Amsterdam brothels and proceeded to go into further detail on union regulations. I'm not kidding. At least I couldn't understand what she was saying once she switched to Dutch. Eventually I went out to dinner with K.DV and some long-time 'Zoo friends of his at the Olde Peninsula brew pub in town, and an academic press bought us dinner. It was a productive meal.

Trivia from various conference days: For the first time in my entire life, I met another Sha(i)na.* I went to a paper whose problematicness was further confirmed by use of that dreaded phrase "throughout history".

* Not to think less of those of you I've met who have it as a middle name or last name variant, but this is what she is generally called as a first name. It was exciting.