Now that I’ve sunk back into the medieval blogosphere I gather that I was at the wrong sessions at Leeds, as I have come back entirely unable to snicker about medieval underpants. It bothers me already how many legs this story has found: Carl Pyrdum seems to have collected most of them at Got Medieval but Richard Nokes adds much-needed unreal perspective at the Unlocked Wordhoard. (He goes on to give this blog a plug that has something like quintupled its apparent readership, for which I owe him due thanks!) All the same, although as Matthew Gabriele comments on Carl’s post, it’s nice to see medieval hygiene making it onto the web rather than the lack of it, the story does crazily miss the point of what Dr Mostert will have been saying. I should leap to his defence, but for two things. Firstly, Carl has done so already and likely far better than I would. Secondly, but for Dr Mostert’s taste and discretion, my and my collaborators’ session at Leeds last year would have been called “Who Gives a Sod (and Why?)”, a joke only funny to charter historians, so I find it vindictively amusing that he is now all over the Hypermation Intersoupway for talking about underwear.
Actually, although I don’t think I would have gone to that session anyway, I have to confess to not branching out as much as maybe I should have done this Leeds. I seem to have mainly spent it in Texts and Identities, which is a guaranteed relevant slot for any Carolingianist but I would have liked to see more archaeology and northern British stuff. Regrettably most of the archaeologists I wanted to hear from pulled out—a lot of people pulled out, in fact— and the best-looking British session clashed with one of our strand, so loyalty kept me away, allied with the hope that Alaric, the moderator, will be able to send me copies of the papers. So what did I do? Well, here goes.
- First and foremost the keynote by Chris Wickham and Marc Boone; it’s always worth hearing Chris speak and this was a lot better than last year’s keynote
- then our three sessions, `us’ in this instance being myself, Allan Scott McKinley and Martin Ryan, the original Three Musketeers of the New Diplomatic (as we wish to be entitled on the sign by the pyre on which they burn our many books when it all goes Fahrenheit 451), and this summer’s special guest stars, in no particular order Dr Elina Screen, Mr Alaric Trousdale, Professor Nicholas Brooks, Mr Alexander Ralston, Dr Alice Rio and Dr Charles West, several of whom have already changed bases so click those links while they’re hot
- book-buying, dinner, drinking and ranting with Morn Capper, who was my boon companion for much of the Congress
- the next morning a session being run by the first of those Alarics named above (at medieval congresses you get plural Alarics, it’s great), which contained stuff about Anglo-Saxon witches, Valkyries and a sterling performance by Martha Bayless who took the stand with no visual aids, proclaimed in a steady and ironic monotone that she used all paper that she herself was the visual aid, and while barely moving or varying her speech all paper still had us all captivated—I want her speaking coach
- the second Texts & Identities session
- a quick bus trip into Headingley to buy some food actually worth eating for dinner
- the following Texts & Identities one because of an old supervisor and two always-inspiring speakers too, except that this year one of them wasn’t because I could hardly hear him, and Rosamond McKitterick got accused of being subversive by Jinty Nelson
- yet another T&I session, which I was attending in the hope of picking up work on bishops but from which the speaker most relevant to that had pulled out alas
- more book-buying and self-catered dinner followed by a small wealth of receptions, even winding up in the Early Medieval Europe one by mistake—I had meant to go, you understand, but had got the idea that it was the next day, and so was slightly disconcerted to find it happening round me—then an attempt at an early night spoilt by new books
- the next morning’s first T&I as well, because Bernhard Zeller‘s evidence always fascinates me and I wanted to poach him for next year’s session
- the revived T&I Time Archives thread, mainly to see if it was as much hot air as last year which I’m thankful to say it wasn’t, instead being very interesting but almost unrelated to its session title
- still more book-buying
- more of the Time Archives because of a friend presenting and another fascinating character
- a T&I session on the papacy for very similar reasons
- another dinner, then a picnic held by Rosamond, at which I met several interesting people, and then the dance, at which I may, may have danced a bit but only under acute peer pressure and mighty personal resolves; also accusations of scandal, absence of same and apparently secret societies
- somehow messing up my alarm that night so as next morning to all but miss my housemate’s paper in the penultimate T&I session
- going to two interesting papers in a (non-T&I!) session out of which unfortunately the speaker most relevant to my work had pulled without my knowing
- and finally off home, after one piece of networking at a publishing stall that inevitably led to a last book being bought
So I was fairly busy. Any questions?
The irony hasn’t stopped yet, indeed; I had a mail when I got back (in fact I had lots, but moving on), and it was from Ashgate Publishing asking whether I wanted this book I’d ordered with them. I mailed them to ask `what book? I’m sure I brought them all home with me!’ but this didn’t stop a duplicate copy of one of the books I bought arriving on Tuesday anyway. I’m sure it’s dead good but I don’t want two of them. Bizarrely, this turns out to be unconnected with the mail, which was about another book they aren’t now going to send me a duplicate of. Funny people. Meanwhile, anyone want a spare copy of Chris Snyder‘s The Britons enough to slip me ten English for it?
Anyway! Too chatty! The following posts will in due course return you calmly into the arms of scholarly academe. Meanwhile, it is nice, as Professor Nokes also says, to remember occasionally that actually this damn discipline has fun in it when you look hard enough.