I have just woken up the day after flying back to the warm sun, gum trees and tangible slowness of Perth. The journey, consisting of roughly 24 hours worth of flying, seemed much easier than its reverse trip. This ease may have been enabled by my great satisfaction at the joy, interactions, adventures and novelties of attending the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A few excellent posts have arisen already written by Jeffrey Cohen, Alan Montroso and Jonathan Hsy, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of them. I thought, however, that I ought to write about a few personal joys and fascinations for me as a first time visitor to the biggest, baddest, most gloriously chaotic and fruitful child of international medieval studies.
My first observation is focused upon the rare joy of taking part in the GWMEMSI roundtable on Ecologies. It is not often that one has the pleasure of participating in a panel so well cultivated and with such an amazing collection of scholars, and I think that Jeffrey Cohen is to be enthusiastically congratulated again for providing the catalyst for such an amazing reaction of ideas. The ideas of the various ‘ecologies’ outlined were picked out and highlighted by the wonderful diversity of their creators, all of whom have my deep gratitude and thanks for being brilliant. It strikes me that there was a hidden paper in the roundtable, an ecology sketched out for presenter and (I hope) audience alike by the inter connectivity of social and intellectual energies in the room that day. I think we all felt part of something big and wonderful, something animated by the vitality of academic joy, sociability, intellection and fervor.
My second observation is about the friendliness of Americans in general, and the overall camaraderie of the congress. There was not a single time, for the entire duration of the trip, when I was not befriended, included, shared with and engaged with at every opportunity. From chance meetings at the Kalamazoo train station that led to dinner (thanks to Matt Desing) to chance encounters in session audiences to friendly taxi drivers to the extremely welcoming GWMEMSI/ BABEL working group/ Postmedieval/ Exemplaria participants and affiliated to more interactions on the train trip home (thanks to Gaelen and Sophie), I really felt the love. It was also great to cross half the world and catch up with people I have met all over the place. Australian academia, although rich and supportive, is a far more diffuse experience. I am not exactly one of natures extroverts (although I muddle through), but it was so nice to be part of a community life every bit as rich as my academic ‘life of the mind’. One can feel the influence of Eileen Joy and BABEL here, who have succeeded in ‘infecting’ Kalamazoo (tomorrow the world!) with a no-holds-barred, radical, profligate and truly magical form of academic and para-academic inter-connectivity and friendship. Bravo!
My third observation focuses around the aforementioned Australian academic community. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Imogen Forbes-Macphail, a recent graduate of my university, friend and all around smart cookie. I would like to thank Imogen for being such an enthusiastic and bold participant in the conference (I wish more students got involved as early on in their careers) and congratulate her on her paper, a development of an undergraduate essay on the Dream of the Rood and the collapsing of the categories of being by the talking, agential, cross. Watching Imogen reminds me of why I got into academia in the first place, and reignites the enthusiasm that I had felt waning in the face of months of routine. I also had the pleasure of meeting with the other Aussies at Kzoo, and would like to use this blog as a call to action. We need to take future congresses by storm, and show the world what we’re made of!
I am the postgraduate representative for ANZAMEMS (the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies), and am planning to propose some sponsored panels at future congresses. If you have any Aussie Kalamazoo related ideas, please do let me know. Also, come to our Ninth Biennial International Conference next year!
Well, if a triad is good enough for Aristotle, it is good enough for me. I’m off to do readings for my tutorials next week, of which there are more on account of my Faustian trade to attend the conference ;)