Tag Archives: self-pity

The Church and doubt, mostly in the Middle Ages

You may, by now, have had enough of my conference reporting from a year ago, and believe you me, by the time summer 2014 ended I had had enough of conferences for a bit. But, there is one more to go, which was the 53rd Summer Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, which took place at the University of Sheffield from 22nd-24th July, and I was there. The EHS publishes most of its proceedings and I liked the theme, which was ‘Doubt’, so I pitched a paper and they accepted it and so there I was. Now, in the event my paper was not sufficiently doubt-full to be accepted for publication, but it was still a good conference and slightly off my usual beat, which is generally good for one. Still, because I have less to say about most of the papers than usual, I’m going to get the three days done in one post, and because that will likely be large, I will just give you the list of what I saw and heard, and then stick my commentary below a cut so that those of you reading the actual front page can choose to skip on by if you like. Here’s that list, then:

    Tuesday 22nd July

    Plenary Session 1

  • Frances Andrews, “Doubting John”.
  • Session 1.1

  • Aideen O’Leary, “Devotion to St Andrew in Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England”.
  • Stephen Sharman, “Bede and the Credible Witness: a response to doubt”.
  • Christine Walsh, “Faith and Authenticity: eleventh- and twelfth-century concerns about the cult of saints and their relics”.
  • Session 2.1

  • Christine Oakland, “‘A Box Full of Hay?’ Doubt and Truth in the Diocese of Sens”.
  • Jan Vandeburie, “When in Doubt, Give Him the Finger: Ugolino di Conti’s loss of faith and Jacques de Vitry’s intervention”.
  • Wednesday 23rd July

    Plenary Session 2

  • Janet Nelson, “Carolingian Doubt?”
  • Session 3.1

  • Kimberley-Joy Knight, “Lachrymose Holiness and the Problem of Doubt in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Hagiographies”.
  • Anik Laferrière, “Doubting Monica: the deletion of Monica from fourteenth-century Vitae Augustini in the Augustinian Order of Hermits”.
  • Steven Watts, “Demons and Doubt: the peculiar account of Brother Bernard’s possession in Jordan of Saxony’s Libellus“.
  • Plenary Session 3

  • Ian Forrest, “Trust and DOubt: the late medieval bishop and local knowledge”
  • Session 4.2

  • Emily Ewing Graham, “Heresy and identity: late medieval friars and the kingdom of Aragón”.
  • Patrick Zutshi, “Evidence and Doubt: the beginning of the Great Schism according to the testimony collected at Medina del Campo in 1380-1”.
  • Thursday 24th July

    Session 5.1

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “The Anger of St Peter: the effects of spiritual sanctions in early medieval charters of donation”.
  • Thomas Smith, “Investigating the Pope’s Doubts: the validity of petitions from thirteenth-century England”.
  • Enrico Veneziani, “Doubting the Authority of Peter: the trial of Pontius of Cluny”.
  • Plenary Session 4

  • Kirstie Blair, “Unforming Faith: poetry, doubt and the Church of England in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

And this is (some of) what I thought about it all… Continue reading

Stock Take VI: the work, the job, the life?

This is the sort of post that is more use to me than to you, most like, so tune out as soon as you feel ready. You might just remember that in May of 2010, I was professionally required to write a report on my academic year, which was actually quite encouraging. Some time before that, too, I’d done a set of four posts here about the various pieces of work I had in process, mainly in an effort to shame me into doing something about their ridiculous number. When I came across that May stock-take whilst looking for a link a year later, it struck me this would be worth doing again, just to see how I’ve done. This has actually taken some time, because it meant trying to squash the four posts into one, which is of course huge and which I have therefore mounted elsewhere, for any real stalkers or procrastinators, as a hidden page under a password (that being `goonthen’) here. I’m not sure why you should really want to read it, but it will remain thus accessible till this post drops off the front page just in case. For the normal people, though, I’ll do a summary here and then add some brief notes on the year’s employment and maybe something about life more widely. I reserve my options on that last though, because I’ve been sleeping badly for a while and so everything is currently coloured grim, whether it is really or not. Anyway, here we go. Continue reading

Enforced optimism about 2009

I am a pessimist, unless I try very hard. Mostly I assume that my pessimism is just realism but every now and then I am reminded, usually by frustrated loved ones, that I am not in the habit of seeing the good side of things. Recently I was reminded of this by my spontaneous reaction to a post of Dr Virago’s at Quod She that ended with the question, “So what were your most gratifying moments of 2009?” To which, before I even thought about it, my reaction was “huh, well there weren’t any really were there?” Which can’t be true, not even semantically. So I thought it was probably worth a struggle to recall them.

An obvious one: receiving the book contract in the post. Not signing it, so much, just having it, and therefore the option to sign, or not if I didn’t want, was a source of gratification for some time, and probably delayed my actual signing and sending it back. It was of course hard immediately to recall that because it’s been about four months since I heard anything about the book and I now don’t think it can come out by Leeds, but nonetheless, that moment was there.

Being asked to teach at Queen Mary, after a while of teaching drought, was also a good one. Subsequently I found out that I’d been recommended to them at third hand (and I still owe people beers for that, sorry) but being able to ask what the course was and then say, “yes, I can do that” was a shot in the arm; apparently I could be a paid medievalist after all!

Similarly, being asked, able and willing to participate in the conference for Rosamond McKitterick, a chance to say thanks for a great many favours and to remind my peers (and indeed supervisor) I was still scholarly active. I enjoyed the whole thing and the idea that it was probably helping me and that it meant a sort of recognition was part of that.

Being in a department had the access from the minute they were released to the publicity documents about the Staffordshire Hoard was pretty cool, reminding me that though my current post is not front-line academia it is still connected to it and by a fairly live wire. (We didn’t have any access that the public didn’t have, but once the news was officially out many people made sure we had it straight away.)

Of course, teaching, though I didn’t enjoy it very much this year it must be said, paid back a bit during essay tutorials and seeing close-up who has really clicked with the stuff, and also people coming good against the odds; this is always heartening, though I am used to getting more of it than I have this semester just gone. Working on that. But the enthusiasm of the interested, or the moment of revelation when you give them the detail that makes it all click into place, that’s still good and I hope always will be. Had a few of those.

And also, I’ve met some good people this year and been to some good places, caught up with almost all my old contacts and drunk many a drink with the learned and never had cause not to feel like one of them. It’s just that I was hoping at least to publish something in 2009, any of the four papers I’d made final revisions on in 2008 for example, the book, anything (though there was of course this booklet, which still doesn’t really feel like me). I was hoping to be able to stop promising future achievements to my referees and report some present ones. I was hoping to get to Catalonia again and sort some stuff out, but I only managed the former. I was hoping one of the projects I was on at work would produce something people could see inside the year, but they haven’t. And I was probably hoping somewhere to get one of the jobs I’d applied for, and that hasn’t (yet) worked either. My pessimism, you see, works on this basis: if it doesn’t lead anywhere, it wasn’t really that great. I need to work on that: some of this stuff was fairly great in and of itself.