Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Please forward to all and sundry.

The Heroic Age is currently inviting papers on the following topics:

LAST CALL: Issue 16: Alcuin and His Impact

Alcuin spans the Anglo-Saxon and Continental worlds and his influence is
felt far beyond his own period and place. This issue seeks to explore
the man, his times, and his influence on his contemporaries and on
subsequent generations.

Articles should be 7000 words including bibliography and endnotes, and
conform to The Heroic Age's in-house style. Instructions may be found
under Submission Instructions. All submissions will be reviewed by two
readers according to a double-blind policy. All submissions should be
sent to Larry Swain.

Issue 17: Carolingian Border-Lands

This issue seeks to explore the lands and peoples surrounding the
Carolingian kingdom(s) and the relationship between empire and
"periphery". Possible topics might include, but not be limited to: the
Spanish March, Carolingians and England and Ireland, the Scandinavian
countries, Carolingian "foreign policy" and trade,
cross-border/cultural/linguistic influences, Italy, Byzantine Empire and
the Carolingians, Saxons, Avars and Slavs just to name a few. The focus
is on the regions surrounding the Carolingians and possibly Carolingian
relationships with those borderlands whether political, religious, or

Articles should be 7000 words including bibliography and endnotes, and
conform to The Heroic Age's in-house style. Instructions may be found
under Submission Instructions. All submissions will be reviewed by two
readers according to a double-blind policy. All submissions should be
sent to Larry Swain.

Issue 18: Occitan Poetry

We would like to invite submissions for the special 2012 issue of HA on
Occitan poetry, edited by Anna Klosowska (Miami U. of OH). We are
interested in submissions including but not limited to the following
topics and approaches:

editions or translations of a short text or texts or a portion of a
longer text (especially lesser known texts)
transnational and postcolonial approaches, Jewish, Arabic,
Mediterranean, Near Eastern, and cultural studies
feminism, queer theory, Marxism, psychoanalysis, history of emotions,
history of subjectivity, critical animal studies
philology, musicology, poetics, manuscript study, material history and
history of ideas, medievalism
Publication: June 2012 (online)
Final revisions due: March 1, 2012
Response from anonymous readers by: December 1, 2012
Submission due: July 1, 2011

Submissions should be 3000 words including bibliography and endnotes,
and conform to The Heroic Age's in-house style. Instructions may be
found under Submission Instructions. All submissions will be reviewed by
two readers according to a double-blind policy. All submissions should
be sent to Anna Klosowska, Special Issue Editor.
Larry Swain

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Serendipity of Gigantism

So, this is a bit old now, nearly a month in fact. Thus, I will not post links. But about 3.5 weeks ago I had one of those moments when various strands and streams of thought converged. This time the point of convergence was giants.

For various reasons I was reading about Rabelais and his giants, esp. Pantagruel. The whole thing rather reminded me of Snorri's tale of creation in Prose Edda. That brought to reflecting on the Marduk and Tiamat tale of Babylonian mythology that many think lies behind biblical Genesis 1.

At the same time, I had reason to review Grettir's Saga, the part where Glam enters the hall and the battle between the two begins. The saga describes Glam as quite a large draugr.

Meanwhile, J. J. Cohen was talking about an encyclopedia article he was writing about....yes, giants and gigantism etc. Then on Facebook Cohen also mentioned that he had found a review of his book, Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, And The Middle Ages.

All these giants kept hitting me. Should I take the hint?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Two Mentions

I neglected to mention in my K'zoo post two rather important folk:

First, I think it was Friday that while with the Great Nokes at the Witan Publishing booth, I met the team behind Very nice folk and I for one very much appreciate what they do over there.

The other person that I am very embarrassed not to have mentioned and with whom I was unable to spend nearly enough time is my good friend Dot Porter. Talented, smart, digital humanitarian extraordinaire....I hope to rectify my wrongs here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kalamazoo at Last

At last, my report on Kalamazoo 2011. Few seem to do this anymore, which is sad considering how significant this conference is. And how large. There is no way that any one person can give an account of all the great scholarship (and sometimes not so great) that is read at Congress. So I annually appreciate the comments of my fellow bloggers the Medieval Geek who posts his experiences every year. Since Curt gets to sessions I can not attend or haven't attended, I always learn a great deal from his posts and so appreciate those posts. His posts also include info about books he purchases; these are enjoyable as well but also educational as a way of being apprised of what is going on out there even in areas I am interested in. In the Medieval Middle also had some K'zoo related posts, mostly from Jeffrey Cohen. I heard rumors of papers being tweeted, but since I have so little time anyway, Twitter is one of the lines I have drawn for myself: that is, I don't Twitter because right now I don't need another thing to keep up on. But if anyone knows for sure, send me a note and I'll add it here. Also there were a few comments by Nokes, Unlocked Wordhoard on this year's K'zoo. You might notice some guy posing as me with the Great Nokes. Vaulting and Vellum also had a post on post-Kalamzoo. That's all I know. Granted I'm behind on my reading, even of blogs, and others may be like me and be delayed in posting about K'zoo. In any case, here's my conference.

For the third year in a row, events conspired to prevent me from being at Congress as planned. I had planned on being there Wednesday afternoon, meeting with some old friends, doing some work, and having dinner with fellow attendees with Thursday dawning bright and early with a meeting followed by sessions. That didn't happen. I did leave early Thursday morning to catch a train; that was a comedy of errors, but I at least made the train sans breakfast, cash, or caffeine....and since the train's credit card reader was down, I was without coffee for the duration of the trip!

We arrived a little late at 11:30. Thankfully and blessedly, a million thanks upon their noggins, the fabulous, intelligent, and ubertalented Jena Webb and Francesca Bezzone came and retrieved me from the train station and then took me to lunch where coffee was had, food partaken, company enjoyed. We didn't watch the time as closely as we ought, so we drove back to Fetzer where my two companions were attending a Late Antique session. I was off to an A-S sessionnin Bernhard. Regrettably, I ran into construction on Sangren by the time I found a way round and got to Bernhard, I was 15 minutes into the session and missing the paper I wanted to hear addressing an already packed room. So I went downstairs to the computer lab and finished my own paper and printed it off.

There I fortunately ran into Bruce Gilchrist. Bruce was reading in the very next session, and as I was undecided which of the three I wanted to go to, prevailed on me to go to the Bede session. There were only two papers, "Why no Love for Constantine the Great in Bede's HE? by Bruce in which Bruce examines the lack of any Constantine mention in Bede and talks somewhat about the growth of the Constantine legends. Good paper, but he tells me that he discovered in process that someone else beat him to it in some out of the way place...but still already done. The second paper was titled "Lessons from Lesser Kings: Books IV and V of Bede's HE" which aimed to accomplish just exactly what the title says: what do we make of the kings in those two books.

Next, I went down to the wine hour. There were too many conversations, new acquaintances made, friends caught up with to mention here. But t'was a good time had by all. Dinner was had with Francesca and Jena again and others; we ended up missing the evening sessions because of a the wait at the restaurant. So it was off to the receptions, many conversations, including one that hopefully will appear in HA in the not so distant future. More on that anon.....

Friday morning came a bit too early. But I went off anyway to the Bloggers Meetup. I was fashionably late; I do know how to make an appearance. Before arriving there I pleasantly encountered Bridget Slavin, now a medieval archaeologist. It was grand to catch up with her a little bit and very good to see her. Then off to the meetup: present and delightful were ADM, Jonathan Jarrett, the aforementioned Curt Emanual of The Medieval History Geek, the incomparable Elizabeth Carnell, the fabulous and knowledgeable Steve Muhlberger, me, and Vaulting and Vellum. I had a good time.

Next came the session in Valley I that I presided over and co-organized with Mary K. Ramsey. One of my long time interests is notions and practices of translation. The session was called "Found in Translation: Linguistic Evidence for Culture Change". We received three abstracts, but only two papers showed. The first paper never communicated with either of us as far I know about not being there, but he didn't show. Anyway, Sandra Hordis read an interesting paper about "Anglo-Saxon Paradise" regarding especially the odd compound for paradise, neaxorwang. She's submitted to HA, so hopefully you'll all read that one in the nearish future. Mary Ramsey then read on "Translating the Names of God" which does as the title says, talks about how God is referred to in OE TEXTS. Two really good, solid papers.

After lunch with Jena and Francesca at Bilbos (my first Bilbo's trip of the year!), I spent the next session in the exhibit hall. For one thing, I needed to find Witan Publishing's booth; there I met the rest of the team in addition to Nokes, took some pictures, and shook some hands. I also made the rounds of book stalls looking for good stuff. Very few primary texts to be had this year, that was very disappointing.

I had intended at the 3:30 session to FINALLY appear at one of the sessions in honor of Pat Conner. Unfortunately, the presider started the session 5 minutes early, the room was packed, not even standing room, so after standing around a bit pondering at the rudeness of starting early and what to do next, I ended up having some coffee and then popped into a paper down the hall on Women Selling Women by Mary Valante. It was very interesting about a topic I had never considered before, so got an education there.

Then off to the wine hour!! By this point being in Jena and Francesca's orbit, I had encountered many folk I might not otherwise have encountered. But still, the nature of the wine hour is to meet, greet, chat, and there are so many I talked to and had a good time with that I can not begin to make a list.

Friday night is the AngloSaxonist dinner, an event that I try to go too. Yes, it is generally the "old guard" and at a "stuffy restaurant" etc. But so what? What matters is the people: I have always enjoyed getting to know my colleagues as people whether Andy Orchard, Paul Szarmach, Tom Hill, Don Scragg, Katherine O'Brien O'Keefe, and others. Or us lesser lights too, who as these big names retire, become big names ourselves. This year I shared a cab and table with two folk becoming big names and whom I respect very, very much: Chris Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor. Both are delightful people and good scholars. I had a very good time in their company.

I had intended to go down to the Babel gathering, but was having such a good time with Jena, Francesca, Yvette, Chris, Michael Fletcher, David DiTucci, Beth Stollar, and others. We exchanged many views on many things and Babel somehow got along without me this year.

Saturday morning became an odd one. It was supposed to be a meeting of the board of the HA for breakfast. We met briefly in the lobby of Valley III and that was that. We were going to go to Maggie's. Maggie's was sadly closed. Bruce Gilchrist was going to join us. So it ended up being Michelle Ziegler, Bruce, and I and first we went to a "coffee shop" in town and I won't comment, and then off to Bob Evans, and a dash back for the first session. I went to the exhibit room for awhile and then ran through my paper a couple times.

After lunch in the company of Francesca, Jena, Lauren Doughty, it were time for my session, "Beowulf Against the Grain." Quite apart from my paper that I've already posted, the other two were really good. J. D. Thayer read on "Hwil Dages: A Mythological Reading of Beowulf and the Man" which was interesting and of course goes the opposite direction of much Beowulf criticism: to read the poem as myth rather than for history or language. The second paper was "Making Beowulf Scream: The Punctuation of Old English Poetry" by Eric Weiskott. I had concerns about this paper. Going in, it was an "Hoo boy" and all I could think of was discussions by Bruce Mitchell. But in the end, this was the best paper in the session, it was terrific, well argued, well delivered. If only I could be that good! Fantastic as a matter of fact.

I had intended to go to a session, but lo, and behold, my friend Melody Harris was at my session, and I hadn't seen Mel in some time. So we went for coffee and caught up with one another, lives, careers, research, etc. Then off to wine hour!! Michael Fletcher had a large group together and they included m kindly in the group. Before going out, Michael thankfully wanted to stop by the Boethius Society reception...good call! There I was able to catch up a bit with Paul Szarmach and Rhonda McDaniel. We went down to a tapas place across from Old Penn. It used to be a French place, then a pizza place...and now this place was FANTASTIC. I would so spend money there again! Wish I could remember the name.

Dinner was fabulous. I met Cedric Briand at last, and we all talked, laughed, and shared plates of food. T'were grand.

Then it was off to the dance....and I danced. And overall a good time was had by many. I still miss the old days, but ah well. Lack of self policing solved that.

Well, believe it or not the next morning dawned. I always intend to go the morning sessions. In recent years, it hasn't happened. Mostly because I have to say Sunday is my chief book time. I spent more time in the book exhibits and finally got to the end at Powells. T'were a sad affair. I think I only bought six books this year. Of course, my budget doesn't extend as far at Curt Emanuel's, whose time to read I also envy! Still, I found this year's exhibit disappointing overall.

So there it is. My 2011 Congress.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Smidge on Higher Education in America....

Well, I've been posting in the old days and thinking of adding posts on the topic of why college education matters, why a liberal arts college education matters. In part this is because of what has been going on my campus this past year, but also because of things we have witnessed on the national scene as well as in various states. Attacks on the value of a college degree, attacks on teachers and their role in education, attacks on faculty, and more. It is more than high time we responded. But before I could, the National Review did in this article. It's the National Review, old school conservative. That's a different kettle of fish altogether than the current neo-conservative and tea-party crowd that would like to bring us back to the 19th century.

When nearly a quarter of state legislators do not have a college degree, folks largely voted in in the last election, and largely funded by a handful of neo-conservative billionaires and groups (Koch brothers, Dick Army, I'm looking at you), well, you put those two things together and you have an anti-education platform. Why? Why would these folks benefit from an anti-education platform? from the resultant uneducated electorate?

We've already seen the purpose behind this backlash against faculty, teachers, and college education. We can tsk tsk about the Koch brothers giving money to a university and for the cash they get to approve the new faculty members, the Koch brothers (or their intermediaries) decide who will be considered, who gets hired, and will give annual reviews to ensure that the content is Koch Industry approved, else they will withdraw their considerable "gift. Nor is the Florida State case just referred to the only one: the Koch brothers have similar conditional agreements at George Mason, West Virginia, Brown, Utah State, and other institutions, or at least programs within institutions. Some of those agreements include not just funding a particular view of society and political structures, but require the reading of Charles Koch's book! What's the goal? Rather than free thinking and critical thinking, the goal is indoctrination. For years, the right has been accusing faculty in academia of indoctrination and making students into leftists. While we know that's not true, since it's hard to talk about Beowulf as a "save the whales" text, we do know that much of the neo-conservative movement and the newish tea-party movement use a strategy that accuses their opponents of something that the neocons and tea partiers themselves do. You know, like Gingrich going after Clinton for having extra marital affairs while Newt himself is busy divorcing his wife who lay in the hospital dying of cancer so he could marry his mistress. Or Eric Cantor demanding that Weiner resign while defending Republicans who did far worse, like Vitter.

So, the more that they cut our budgets, the more we will be dependent on organizations like the Koch brothers charity who will kill intellectual freedom by attaching strings and conditions to their "gifts" ensuring an indoctrination of students rather than an education. This silences dialogue. This silences debate. This silences argument. This is the opposite of education.

So back to the beginning. There are those who want to create a society in their own image. They will spend billions to do so. They do not want the current faculty empowered or able to respond, rather discredit the current faculty so that they can be replaced with faculty more in line with the "party."

Part of weakening the current faculty is to reduce student bodies. Fewer students means that fewer faculty are needed. Thus, discourage students from going to college. That further weakens colleges and universities so that they *NEED* cash from such organizations that will stipulate who to hire and what to read.

Of course, they are wrong: a college degree is worth the investment in the long run, yes even a *gasp* liberal arts degree. In the long view, a college degree gets the student on average more than $20 grand a year in income to pay back those loans rather faster. An educated public *should* be able to see through this. I haven't even begun to discuss the problems with "Academically Adrift", but one thing we all agree on: modern companies, business, law, political, scientific...., need people who can not only be trained to handle technology, but also to assess, evaluate, and deem worthy or unworthy a vast amount of information and develop fresh, innovative, creative ideas. No one is more equipped to that than a college graduate with a liberal education.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A Paedogogical Moment of which I'm rather Chuffed

So, for a couple of reasons I'm brought back to this past semester: I was thrown the task of teaching British and World Drama. I am something less than a drama expert or critique. Nonetheless, the class was mine. One of the things I did was assign them groups, each group at random drew a television show. I put 10 current shows, 5 comedies, 5 dramas, in a hat and a group member drew from the hat the show the group would deal with for the semester. The idea was that at each stage of the semester (Classical, Medieval, World), the groups would transform their shows into the genre we were for classical, dramas into a Classical drama, comedies into Classical comedy.

Some really got into the spirit of the exercises. Two that I revisited today were the group doing Two and a Half Men and Law and Order. The middle section of the semester was on medieval drama, chiefly focusing on morality plays, saints' plays, mystery plays, and bit on folk plays and interludes. Now Two and a Half men is easily transformed into a morality play and that's what that group did, though admittedly the timing couldn't have been better since they presented at the time that Charlie Sheen was in full-on meltdown mode! I could not have planned that better.

The other group I revisited today was the Law and Order group. They consistently did a fabulous job on their show in all three phases. But they really went over the top I thought with the medieval. Undoubtedly they wanted to earn brownie points, and they succeeded. In explaining the saint's life I had gotten WAAAAAYY off topic and did a little pony show about saint's lives and some of the oddities one finds there. I found myself unexpectedly talking about St. Mary of Egypt and St. Eugenia of Alexandria, particularly the latter. One of the points I was trying to make was the concern about sexuality regarding female saints vs. male saints...prepatory to reading and teaching Thais the Whore. This group did Law and Order doing the story of St. Eugenia. Priceless. Truly priceless. I wish I had film of it. They did marvelously well, complete with the "doink doink." At least they learned something about a saint....