Saturday, May 14, 2016


I am still at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While here, I have been attending to some scholarly business, which I report elsewhere--here, for example. Too, I presented a paper yesterday, which went reasonably well. But I am also attending panels because I want to attend them. Some discussion of such things follows.

My own paper, "The Malorian Kay as Fredalian Figure," reads the presentation of Sir Kay the Seneschal in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur as enacting the kind of bullshit James Fredal defines in his 2011 College English piece, "Rhetoric and Bullshit." I admit that there is some immaturity in my presenting the paper as I did; there is something that remains funny to me about getting to say the word "bullshit" a couple dozen times in an academic paper given to an audience of academics. But that does not mean that the rubric Fredal lays out is a bad one, and it does not mean that the application of that rubric is invalid--and my audience seemed to have taken the point. There is merit in applying emergent tools to established works, and the discussions that ensue from such applications--whether directed to the topic or working on some related idea emerging from the underlying situation--are well worth having. I am happy to have been able to stimulate such things, even more than I am to have gotten to write a fun paper with a number of jokes embedded in it.

I also attended interesting sessions. One of them related to the Ballad of the Lone Medievalist, a publication to which I have contributed a chapter that is currently under review. It was a roundtable session, with a number of speakers who more or less improvised their presentations. Some common threads emerged from their discussion, at least to my mind and ear. Many speakers addressed the institutional pressures that vitiate against the presentation of the medieval in the classroom. Many also addressed the seeming impetus for medievalists to be tasked with the teaching of all pre-modern materials in their disciplines. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of medieval studies received much attention, too, as did the need to be willing to be wrong, both as a way to develop cultural competencies and as a way to be better able to approach the truth of things--the one great project on which all sincere academics are working. Each reminded me of things that I have known but have not always kept in the front of my mind, and each spurs me to something like hope in my own ongoing search for work that makes use of my talents. I have need of such hope.

There will doubtlessly be more for me to report, both in this webspace and elsewhere. Whether I will get to it soon, I am not certain; there is much to do, and some of it involves traveling well away from where I can comfortably or effectively report it. But I will continue to make the effort to account for my deeds and doings; hopefully, they will be of help to someone or another, which would make the efforts worth expending.

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