Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In which I am confused by the world of publishing

In which I am confused by the world of publishing

I made a day trip to Research Library in the Big City yesterday, where I met up with Tiruncula. We talked a lot about jobs and book projects -- I need one, she has a cool one. In fact, hers is especially cool because it's not history, but I understood exactly what she wants to do, and it sounds fascinating and amazingly simple and clear-gut. Plus, I got to say things like, "Have you looked at X?" so I didn't feel like a complete eejit. Anyway, it was fun to get together with someone who is becoming a better friend the longer I know her, and who knows the most amazing restaurants. OMG people, the food! (and she likes anchovies, too, so we ate things with anchovies AND tentacles!!) I ate more than I needed to, because, well, yummy. And a luscious, if a little spendy, Lacrimae Christi which may now be one of my favourite wine types.

What does this have to do with publishing? I'm getting to that. As I was packing up to leave the library, I noticed a book. I didn't have time to read through it, so I grabbed it and added it to my pile for check-out. Possibly too much of the evening was spent boring my dinner companion with the book's OMG!!WTF??? passages. Later, I had a conversation with Cranky Professor about it. It went something like this:

Me: I could have written that book!
Him: No, you really couldn't. You have standards.

What follows illustrates a collection of problems I have with academic standards, my own academic snobbery (or rather, my uncertainty about whether I'm being a snob or defending my turf or whether my complaints are valid), and how random the standards for academic publication sometimes seem. I'm also thinking in terms of gatekeeping -- if I were employed at a research uni, or even a SLAC with a coherent idea of scholarship and support for research, my work would be judged by people who know my field. But I think many campuses with pretensions are happy to have "books" and "articles" (peer-review is in there somewhere, but I think not necessarily the level of peer review one finds elsewhere), and really have no mechanism for judging the quality of the work. And face it, if the campus offers little support for research, should they expect that their faculty can produce publications equal to those of their colleagues who have access to world-class research libraries, low teaching loads, and sabbaticals? Those are just a few of the things that looking through this book brought to the forefront of my panicky, trying-to-work-on-my-portfolio thoughts.

Before I decided to post about this, I did a little digging. The author's most recent (I think) book, Carolingians in Central Europe, Their History, Arts, and Architecture: A Cultural History of Central Europe, 750-900, published by Brill, was the recipient of one of the most thoroughly painful reviews I've ever read (in one of the last three issues of Speculum IIRC -- I'd look it up, but I keep my journals on campus). The upshot of the review was, "don't buy it, and if your library did, it should ask for its money back!" The book I'm looking at is Schutz, Herbert. The Germanic Realms in Pre-Carolingian Central Europe, 400-750. (Peter Lang: 2000). It's part of Lang's "American University Series." It has disheartened me.

I hadn't really looked at the book, except for the title, when I grabbed it. The title itself made me uneasy, but the name of the author made me think that it was perhaps just an awkward translation of something that had first appeared in German. The back cover dispelled any such illusions. The author of the book wrote his PhD thesis on the 20th c. German novelist and poet Hermann Kasack. This leads me to believe that the author is not trained as an historian. You may have noticed, but I'm an Early Medieval (or incredibly Late Antique) historian. My Doktorvater specializes in Late Antique (but back when he got his degree, that was still the Early MA!), and much of his work is rooted in archæology. I am not a philologist, but most of my Latin and German training came from philologists (I wonder if that's why my French is comparatively not as strong). I may not be quite as au fait at recalling on the spur of the moment secondary sources -- or even some primary ones -- as some of my colleagues, but that's why one has books and notes, right?

So. This book. It follows few of the conventions of my field. Secondary sources and primary sources are not separated. The primary sources are almost entirely in translation, either in English or German. There are a couple of sources from the PL, but you wouldn't know it unless you were familiar, as the bibliographic entries point to Migne (after the occasional misspelling, so that 'Medielanensis' is where Ambrose is from). Again, this stuff isn't a problem, if one already knows what the sources should be. The same is true for the Latin within the book. Some of it is just wrong, both in forms used and in translations thereof. (There's also a lot of random capitalization and italicization that just irritates me. ). In general, the book screams, "The author just doesn't get it!" For example:

The Royal line of the Franks -- Merovech, Childeric, Clodovech* -- contrary to that of other peoples who derived their descent from Wodan/Odin, 46 derived their ancestry from a territorial maritime divinity in the shape of a bull, a Quinotaur, 47 -- the horse harness in Childeric's grave had the golden head of a bull attached to it -- hence the frequency in the Merovingian names of the syllable mer, meaning ocean/sea, used either as prefix or suffix.48 (p. 152). [The author continues with a discussion of the changes conversion to Christianity would have brought to a people used to worshipping a localised deity and posits that the Franks might have seen the Christian god as a local god of Belgica Secunda]

I could go on, but I've spent too much time on this. There's a strange discussion of the relation of the words 'duke' and 'Herzog' via Indo-European, with absolutely no reference to the Latin title and/or office of dux (p.304). There are strange insinuations (I cannot find the pages, but will, if asked) that the Franks may have been Arians before conversion and that the Merovingians were trying to recreate the Roman Empire. There's the strange usage of 'Agilulfingians' and 'Arnulfingians'. But basically, what it boils down to is that this book contains nothing new or insightful, is primarily a synthesis of the stories in the narrative sources and relatively current scholarship, and is frequently just misleading and wrong.

Medieval history is hard. It requires training and skills. It takes most of us years to acquire any expertise, and most of the people I know who are experts are still not experts in everything -- they regularly engage in conversations with their colleagues in order to make sure they aren't missing things. It's not that I don't think people can shift fields and gain the expertise necessary to write in those fields, but I think it's very difficult. The people I know who are best at it are those who have become experts in sf/f, but the historians among them tend to take a more historical approach to the literature and avoid Lit Crit. Also, well, sf/f has had connections to medieval scholars for a long time. Having said all that, I think this is a case where a History Channel person thinks he's a Historian, and hasn't had the training. And yet, the book is here. It's tangible. OK, it's published by Lang, but the book was funded by a major grant from the Canadian government. This series of Lang books seems to have helped the author to have gained a contract with Brill. My mad google skilz show that Schutz's books are being used all over the interwebs by people who aren't scholars -- and he does rely on the works of reputable people, although I really do get the feeling (the one an experienced teacher gets when reading student papers) that most of the references to primary sources are gleaned via the scholarly works. I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to articulate here, because it's really hard to define things that just create a general unease. It just seems to me that this is an example of several systems having been gamed (and I think with the best of intentions -- someone just fell in love with a topic and decided to write about it), and it makes me feel devalued, disillusioned, and very unsure about how much role luck and chutzpah play in this academic life.

46 The Venerable Bede, Baedae, Opera Historica, With an English Translation by J.E. King in 2 Volumes, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Loeb Classical Library, I, XV (Cambridge, Mass. London 1963), p. 73

47 Wood, Kingdoms, p. 37, concerning the supernatural origin of the dynasty. This mysterious origin is only reported in Fredegar. Gregory of Tours does not make reference to this supposed supernatural origin of the dynasty. Either he did not know the legend or he deliberately suppressed it. See Graus, p. 319f.

48 Kaiser [Das Römische Erbe und das Merowingerreich(1993)], p.83, in his review of the literature indicates that Gregory of Tours tried to displace the sacred, pagan elements of the Merovingian kingship, in order to bring the achievements of Chlodovech to correspond with Christian ideals of monarchy.

*Schutz announces early on that he uses the forms of names that seem least confusing and most melodious to him -- apparently those are better criteria than English-language convention.*

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Inspired by Karl Steel at In the Middle

The door it opened slowly,
my father he came in, I was nine years old.
And he stood so tall above me,
his blue eyes they were shining
and his voice was very cold.
He said, "I've had a vision
and you know I'm strong and holy,
I must do what I've been told."
So he started up the mountain,
I was running, he was walking,
and his axe was made of gold.

Well, the trees they got much smaller,
the lake a lady's mirror,
we stopped to drink some wine.
Then he threw the bottle over.
Broke a minute later
and he put his hand on mine.
Thought I saw an eagle
but it might have been a vulture,
I never could decide.
Then my father built an altar,
he looked once behind his shoulder,
he knew I would not hide.

You who build these altars now
to sacrifice these children,
you must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
and you never have been tempted
by a demon or a god.
You who stand above them now,
your hatchets blunt and bloody,
you were not there before,
when I lay upon a mountain
and my father's hand was trembling
with the beauty of the word.

And if you call me brother now,
forgive me if I inquire,
"Just according to whose plan?"
When it all comes down to dust
I will kill you if I must,
I will help you if I can.
When it all comes down to dust
I will help you if I must,
I will kill you if I can.
And mercy on our uniform,
man of peace or man of war,
the peacock spreads his fan.

The Story of Isaac -- L. Cohen

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What do Wikipedia and Mel Gibson have in common?

What do Wikipedians and Mel Gibson have in common?

They think they have a clue about history and really don't care if they get things entirely wrong as long as they agree with their friends that they're right. And that other people believe them.

At least it's so bad that if I don't catch my students plagiarizing it, I can still flunk them for using really, amazingly, pathetically wrong information. Because, yeah, we all know that the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were one and the same. Er ... yeah.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Oh Al

Oh, Al ...

"In the Middle Ages, often the Court Jester was the only guy who could tell the truth without getting his head cut off..."


By the way, what do we even know about court jesters? I can't think of a single reference to them in any historical source. I mean, there's Lear, and there's the elevation of the Fool at Carnival, but does anyone know when/how this idea (and the whole Queen of Hearts, "off with her head" thing) came into our common (mis)perception of the MA?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chicken or Egg?

Chicken or Egg

So I'm looking at Stafford's Queens, Concubines and Dowagers to see if there's anything useful for the paper-to-article thing. And she says, "During the sixth century the Merovingian kings extended Frankish control and won great though not always lasting victories over Thuringians, Burgundians, and Bavarians" (p. x)

So here's my question, and it's one that has been floating around in my head since I started my PhD thesis:

The who? This is particularly in reference to the Thuringians. Oh -- let me preface this by saying I haven't yet read any of the (end of) Rome/Barbarian books that have come out in the last year or so, nor Wickham. Sorry -- heavy teaching load and job searches kind of got in the way. But anyway ...The who?

Do we actually know anything about the Thuringians, except that we have a law code and Fredegar and (I think) the Annales Regni Francorum. And some of Boniface's correspondence. At least, that's all I can think of in terms of pre-Carolingian stuff. I assume Stafford is talking about the Basina/Basinus/Chlothilde stuff (also in Gregory -- sorry LDW!), and perhaps Radulf, who is put in as dux. But does anyone know of a anything that ties all of these sources together into the same group of people? Because IIRC, Schlesinger, in Geschichte Thüringens discusses the arguments that the Thuringian duces (or is it just the Würzburger duces?) at the time of Boniface's mission are possibly (probably? -- oh hell, that may be Prinz. I should check that.) the descendants of Radulf, which I suppose makes him an analog for Agilolf in Bavaria.

Why am I rambling about this? To figure out one small point that may or may not make it into this article. It would be nice to know which law obtained in the area I'm studying in the period between Boniface's mission and, say the reigns of Pippin or more likely, Charlemagne. And of course, "this area" is also problematic. Anybody know of good maps for C7, C8, and C9 on what areas were considered parts of Thuringia then? Anyway, I'm looking at women and property in this area, and it would be nice to know whether we modern people are calling it Thuringia because that's where the Thuringians were, or if we're calling the people Thuringians because that's where they live.

And yes, I realise that the real answer is probably that we just don't know and who cares? But it's these little details that keep me from fretting about the rest of my life.

Also, yes, I am very aware of Innes' State and Society. It doesn't answer my questions per se, but I suppose I should just break down and buy a damned copy, since CUP lost LDW's order when he tried to get it for me as a gift.

PS -- If this entry tells you for sure who ADM is IRL and you didn't already know, I'd appreciate your not passing it on. Cheers.

Carnivalesque XXVII

Carnivalesque XXVII is up!

Hi all -- Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology has posted the latest Ancient/Medieval Carnivalesque. There's some good stuff there. And remember,

Carnivalesque Button is certainly not just for academics. Carnivalesque welcomes perspectives from a variety of fields, especially history, literary studies, archaeology, art history, philosophy - in fact, from anyone who enjoys writing about anything to do with the not-so-recent past. You can nominate your own writing and/or that of other bloggers, but please try not to nominate more than one or two posts by any author, and limit nominations to recent posts (in the last 2-3 months, since Carnivalesque alternates between topics monthly).

Potential hosts should be regular bloggers with some knowledge of and interest in pre-modern history (though, again, not necessarily academics). If you are interested in hosting an edition of Carnivalesque, please send an email to carnivalesque AT earlymodernweb DOT org DOT uk, noting whether you are particularly interested in early modern or ancient/medieval, and telling a little about your background and historical interests.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Well, Shoot.

Well, Shoot

The panel I asked for at a big conference got shot down. I'm kinda bummed, because I think it would have been a good one. It was a little weird -- the CFP for pre-modern, especially medieval, was fairly desperate -- I've never actually seen one that said, "hey, we want you all so much that you can give papers you've given at the Zoo and MAA!" Maybe I should have suggested a re-hashed paper panel -- except that most of us can't really get funded to present the same paper twice, and it seems kind of dishonest to just change the name.
So I suggested something else -- a roundtable on the similar challenges medievalists face on different types of campuses (to be fair, they are similar to the challenges faced by Africanists and Asianists -- except that departments large enough to have Africanists and Asianists generally have more support all round, whereas medievalists are often hired as generalists). I think it would have been interesting -- plus it fit in with the call for different types of presentations, rather than the straight paper panels that tend to be the rule. Oh well, live and learn. I just really hope that the medieval panels that got in will be worthwhile, because it's usually damned hard to find something worth seeing there besides the book room.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another reason to love Joss Whedon

Another Reason to Love Joss Whedon

Via a friend on LJ:

Joss wants to know what is wrong with women.
This is in the context of an honor killing that was filmed and is available via CNN. And an upcoming film about the kidnapping and torture of a young woman. He asks:
What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

The whole thing is worth reading. I know, he's pretty much preaching to the choir, if his readers are like mine. And this is pretty much the subtext of BtVS. But it never hurts to remind people. Again.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sometimes, it's the little things

Sometimes, it's the little things

More random bullets:
  • I cleared out half a file cabinet and shredded tons of stuff today. More tomorrow. Then I'll have more room in my home office! (more being a relative term ... I really need to move a ton of stuff into my campus office, rearrange furniture, and buy another bookcase or two)
  • I got my contract for next year! It's nice to have that security.
  • I went out with a colleague last night and listened to some other colleagues perform. Much fun, and it was good to be with people who had been at SLAC for a while and know the system
  • I scrubbed the bathroom floor the old-fashioned way. Swiffers are all well and good, but no mop really does your standard apartment vinyl very well.
  • I typed up a list of all the articles I have copies of, so that I can check the list before I go looking for them.
  • I found a bunch of notes for teaching, and realised I have a bunch of notes from my diss that might be relevant to the articles I'm working on, so maybe I should review my notes before re-taking them?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday RBOC -- Returning from the 'Zoo edition

Friday RBOC -- Returning from the Zoo edition

  • Cat claws are sacrosanct ... please do not trim them
  • when given a choice between duty (faculty workshops) and something really cool, like a one-of-a-kind international symposium, take the symposium, because most of your colleagues have already left for forn parts and/or the beach
  • There is still a large pile of crap on my desk at home. It includes three ILL books. I've got about 10 of the damned things due back on 25 May. I really need them for longer. My ILL librarian and my department chair are going to hate me, because my ILL books tend to cost money.
  • Also in the pile is are the receipts for two conferences. Got to get those forms in today
  • I bought new running shoes yesterday (we shall not speak of the price) -- I had them fitted at the running shoe store in Dabbaville. Running up and down the mall seems to have loosened my Kalamazoo back, which was all tweaked from walking in heels and sitting for prolonged periods in very uncomfortable seats -- can I just say how much I loved being able to sit in a panel in Fetzer 1005? mmmmm .... comfy!
  • I'm thinking back on some of the papers I heard. Some were very good and very cool. Others were really derivative and honestly nothing new. I actually re-capped one to LDW, where he said ... "Well, I said that in X...oh, that's so-and-so in Y... everybody knows that!" But then, there was a different paper where I sat there thinking, "I just read this article!" At the end of a long section of the paper, the person said that the author of said article had made great contributions on the subject or some such thing. Er, no. The author pretty much said in print (from conference proceedings from a few years ago) what the presenter said. Attribution is kind of important. Misleading attribution worries me. I'm going to assume it was the format of the rushed conference paper, and not anything deliberate.
  • OMG People, Please! I know that Danuta Shanzer's guidelines (I'd link, but I can't find them at the new K'zoo site) are a bit scary, but DAMN! Far too many people tried to fit 25-30 minute papers into 20 minutes. The fact that you can read that quickly, doesn't mean you should. There were so many papers, especially those without handouts, where I just found myself tuning out because I couldn't keep up while trying to weigh the paper's ideas.
  • And speaking of handouts -- bring enough. If you don't, then please do not assume that your audience knows what you are talking about. At least have the decency to check and make sure the handouts are being shared, and make some changes on the fly to let people know what they don't have in front of them. Don't leave big gaps that can only be filled if a person has the handout.
  • I've been having a great time reading other people's Kazoo posts.
  • When a senior Lion said he'd like to send me an article he was working on, I didn't expect it to be in French
  • Also, cat claws may be sacrosanct, but the cats I serve are very forgiving. It's hard to work with a cat on one's lap.

Thursday, May 17, 2007



I don't know how many people have been following this story. I sincerely doubt that anyone outside of the UK, Europe, or perhaps Northern Africa will see this child, if she's been transported across borders. But since I have readers well outside the Western Hemisphere, it makes sense to post this:


I know if my child were kidnapped, I would appreciate help from the blogosphere. I doubt I'll make a habit of this, but I've been pinged with it by several friends, and if it's important to them, it's important to me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back to SLAC

Back at SLAC

There's an odd trischotomy* between the conference me and the blogging me and the SLAC me. When I am at a conference, especially when I'm presenting, I feel at ease. I'm really worried -- no doubts about that. After all, I'm getting up in front of my peers and, to be realistic, people who are much more advanced and polished than I am. But you know, this time, I felt more comfortable with presenting myself and my work. I was pretty sure that my paper, if not earth-shattering, was solid scholarship. I'm still a little intimidated, of course -- some of these people know a hell of a lot more than I do, at least in the sense that they seem to have more details at their fingertips than I do. But this time, I felt surer than ever that my thought processes and foundation in the field are sound. It helps when people tell you you asked good questions! But anyway, I've got to the point where I feel less like a fraud, and more like someone who needs to work her ass off to keep up. That I can do. I suppose it also helps that LDW and an awesome colleague who specialises on John Chrysostum have helped get it into my head that my knowledge may be shallower, but I really do have a broader range that I shouldn't be ashamed of.

The blogging me, as you may have noted, is both pretty confident and not afraid to be insecure. Frankly, if you know me IRL, you know that I am not all that different in person. At least, I don't think I am. On the other hand, I don't go out on quite as many limbs here as I sometimes do at work. And in some ways, I probably go out on more. But mostly, the blogging ADM is a lot like the SLAC ADM, I think. Maybe more outspoken in terms of length, but less confrontational than I am in faculty meetings.

The SLAC me? that's the me that struggles to reconcile all the parts. SLAC is a teaching uni, but one with a requirement for publication. It's a campus that accepts a wide range of student abilities, and where I am expected to be a generalist. At the end of my first year, I think I have realised that I have more potential as a scholar than I gave myself credit for. I've also realised that I have underestimated the difficulties involved in working as a generalist while trying to maintain the specialist part of my career. I've also been trying to reconcile the different messages that I've been getting from colleagues and administrators on standards and teaching.

As with many campuses in the country, and especially those in transition, trying to become more competitive, faculty often have to negotiate the very grey areas between doing whatever it takes to retain students and maintain standards that are -- or should be -- transferable to any other college or university. Today I had the idea from several of my more senior colleagues that I was mad to try to demand the kinds of work I demand. To be honest, I'm not always sure my standards are high enough in amounts of work, but I feel comfortable with the level of work I assign, and the kinds of analysis and writing my students have to do. Whatever. Despite the feeling that my colleagues rather disapproved of my expectations, I don't see how I can compromise. This evening, I think I found some confirmation that I'm not completely off track. I checked my enrollments for fall. My upper division specialty course is filled, and at least 6 of the students have taken courses with me before, so they know what to expect. A couple are majors, but most aren't. In fact, one is in a very demanding professional program. The student took one class with me to fulfill a requirement last fall. S/he doesn't need any more history classes. This will be the third class the student has taken with me. My other UD class, which is a service class for the major, has all the majors who have not yet taken it. One of my surveys is 2/3 full, and the other is 1/3 full, and freshmen haven't finished registering yet. So it occurs to me that, unless my colleagues are horrible people who scare off all the students (and they're not), my teaching must be all right, because students are taking my classes despite the fact that they complain about how hard they are. Maybe pushing ourselves and our students is a good thing. Who knew?

*I don't know if it's a word. I wanted something that had three poles, rather than two.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dancing with the Stars (of Academe)

Dancing with the Stars (of Academe)

This year, like Professor Doktor von Kornkrake, I went to the dance. Next year, if LDW comes to the Zoo again, he may have to suffer through a little conversation at a table, even if he absolutely does not dance, because it's fun to see one's friends that relaxed. In return, I promise not to close down the dance! My dance was interesting. Danced with an eminent mediævalist, while Cranky Professor looked on and smirked. The problem with academic siblings is that they can be merciless.

Then, I had a great chat with Mike Drout, whom I hadn't seen in a year, and not enough of a chat with owlfish. I tried to add the Carolingianist from down the road to my dance card, but he had understandably not had enough to drink to dance to the ... eclectic? choice of music. And it was eclectic -- some techno stuff, a bit of not-quite-metal (what Cranky calls Geetar bands), definite oldies (i.e., from my childhood), ABBA-Bowie-Queen kind of stuff, Some rock anthem-y ballady stuff, and, well, how can you go wrong with a dance where people rush to the dance floor to do the Time Warp and that closes with people singing Bohemian Rhapsody in parts?

There were some interesting moments. I realised at a couple of points that some of the people on the floor had danced to some of the songs before some of the other people were even born. Older male faculty tended to think of dancing as something one does with a partner, while many of the rest of us tend to dance in groups, except when doing an actual partnered-type dance. Towards the end of the evening, Cranky pointed out that his college bête noir (someone who actually gave him a C) was trying to edge into our group. The Spanish archæologist from my panel was an amazing dancer -- seriously, he put people to shame with the salsa moves! The guy who chaired my panel, who I always thought was likeable, but whom I hadn't really ever had much of a chance to talk to, and the enormously tall mediævalist from State Polytechnic were huge amounts of fun -- although Cranky and I felt we needed to try to keep them from pouring too much alcohol down our sweet younger academic half-sibling's throat!

So, at the dance, I saw lots of other people, too. Scott Nokes was there, and horribly embarrassed that he couldn't remember what name I blogged under. Another friend from the UK looked fab, as usual -- although apparently he went for subtle, not having brought his glowsticks. Can I just say that he's an impressive dancer? Much of my time on the dance floor was spent near a lovely and hugely fun, very anonymous blogfriend (yay! to have met her!). And a couple of my friends frm Beachy U were also at the dance, although I didn't get enough of a chance to talk to them. That is the one problem -- one wants to see everybody, but when they are in other subfields, it's really hard to connect. I looked around for another anonymous blogfriend, Digital Medievalist, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and their very cool and nice friend MacAllister Stone, but didn't see them. I did see the absolutely amazing Lisa Carnell, whose thankless hard work helps to keep the congress functioning, but she was always across the room enjoying a well-deserved break!

Drinks were a bit pricey, though. Probably a good thing. Three beers over an evening of dancing is about right. Others might not have been quite as judicious. Still, I think a good time was had my most, if not all, and the standing around singing just about wiped out my voice. It was also a strange discovery that I knew the words to "Livin' on a Prayer" and a couple of other songs that I never particularly liked ... Blowing off steam is a good thing.

How cool is this?

How Cool is this?

Got this from an anonymous friend on LiveJournal: A tour through the Inferno

Kazoo report to come as soon as the regrouping, laundering, bill-paying, and house-cleaning -- not to mention getting the reimbursement requests in on time -- are over!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Conference Blogging

Conference Blogging

So, before I head off to K'zoo, maybe I should say something about the last conference I went to. LDW and I went to a Late Antiquity conference in March. It is the third time I've been to this conference, and it is my favourite. It's small -- 45 papers (44 as it happened, as one presenter was not able to come), and maybe 150 attendees. All of the sessions are plenary, and it's very hard to skip out -- although the quality is so good that there's seldom any desire to do so. So far, I haven't given a paper there yet, because Carolingianists are generally considered to be a bit too late. This time, though, there were definite overtures to try to get some papers after the 5th century, because there seems to have been a bit of stagnation around C4 and C5. It's kind of a funny thing -- the conference is only about 14 years old -- it's biennial. And it was founded by a good friend of DV's, DV, and the Roman historian at Beachy U who was one of the people who contributed the most to my formation as a historian.

Anyway, it's the first conference I ever attended, and the most friendly. It's also small enough that junior people -- and there are some very junior people, i.e., scary-smart grad students -- get to hobnob with some very senior people. This year was interesting because I've now got to know some of the regulars a bit, and am now less in awe, not to mention that I'm now a bit more able to identify different collegial circles. I'm also confident enough that I am willing to feel a bit censorious towards people who are outright rude, talking through presentations, running over time, etc.

Still, it was a great time. It started with an excellent paper by I scholar I find rather intimidating, although she's very warm and friendly, on Boethius and the language he used to express different levels of meaning as a way of mediating between his heterogenous audience. There were also a couple of excellent papers on the decline of the Capitolinum from the age of Jerome, and one of my favourites, which was on the church of SS Cosimos and Damian.
Later, there were three very good an thoroughly entertaining papers around the theme of Constantine's vision. I honestly thought that there was nothing new to say, but I was very surprised. The session on law, which included a fun paper on Lactantius and one on infanticide, was also well worth being there for. As it happens, those two papers were given by people who did undergrad work with DV, one before I ever went to Grad U, and the other by someone who remembered me from when she was an undergrad who took one of DV's grad seminars on Rome. She's got a couple of books out now, and teaches at an R1. By the time we got to the session on Emperors and Bishops, I was getting a bit sleepy, and was really happy that a charming British colleague who teaches north of the border talked about eunuchs, barbarian generals, and other overblown rumours. Amusing and woke me up, it did. Coffee got me through the panel on Ecclesiastical Leadership -- I shouldn't have needed it, but we'd moved to a lecture hall with horribly uncomfortable seats. I tend to get dozy when my back hurts. Fortunately, I had LDW next to me to elbow me set a good example. But the paper on Eusebius Gallicanus was entirely new and interesting, and I'm always happy to hear papers on Ambrose.

The keynote for the night was fun. So much so that my notes for the talk read, "Blood! Gore! Ritual Sacrifice! Malleus Maleficarum!" And there's a large picture of a dragon. The wine hour before the talk had provided us with really good snacks as well. Most of us (the conference runs from 8:00 to 8:00) wandered off after the talk, and some of us reconvened at a room party where I probably drank more than my fair share of wine. But I fielded a couple of personal questions, chatted with other friends, figured out who had the rooms on either side of us, and retired at a reasonable hour.

Day three started with a couple of very good papers on Arian iconography (there isn't any) and Gregory's discussion of Arians. After coffee, a very convincing paper on religious pluralism and factionalism in the east, mostly Antioch, kicked off a bunch of papers on John Chrysostum. I have to say that some of this stuff makes me feel incredibly ignorant, because these people work in Greek all the time. Fortunately, one of the women who presented writes some of the clearest prose ever. And after, when LDW and I were talking about how ignorant I felt -- and that he did sometimes, too, which is ludicrous -- he kindly pointed out that I was a Carolingianist who regularly teaches all of world history, is able to teach upper division courses in Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern, and is able to ask sensible questions on John Chrysostum. Made me feel a bit better. I'd still rather have a bit more depth to go with the breadth, though.

I was losing steam by the time we got to the papers on Iamblichus and Porphyry, especially when I got entirely lost in the discussion of theurgy, but revived for the papers on religious papers and patronage. The banquet was lovely, although the wine was pricey. LDW and I discovered that, for a dollar more than the wine, we could get seriously generous pours of Glenfiddich, so we sipped whisky after dinner. We then avoided going out drinking and dancing as an end to the evening, preferring sleep.

The papers on the last day were all on the east. I especially liked the one on how rabbis tried to dissuade Jews from attending Roman entertainments and the one on how an emphasis on Mary as theotokos rather than virgin fuelled a rivalry between Bethlehem and Jerusalem and what that meant overall.

So, I think a good time was had by all. I got to talk to a couple colleagues about submitting an article and maybe writing a paper for the next conference. I figure that in two years I'll be ready to get up in front of a bunch of people who intimidate the hell out of me, but whom I now know a bit. Mostly, though, I felt entirely invigorated -- until getting back to the airport on time at 11 p.m., and then waiting over an hour for our luggage and another 20 minutes to get to the car. And then an hour's drive home!



Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
3,748 / 3,100

I shall celebrate with radio programming and cleaning up the flat for the cat sitter. Tomorrow? Revising the paper, making handouts and screen caps for the roundtable, possibly taking library books back to Big City U unless I can renew them online, finish cleaning, marking exams, and going for a run.

If I had a wayback machine, pt 1

If I had a wayback machine, pt 1

If I had a Wayback Machine, I would happily use it to go beat one Wenilo, notary of the civitas of Moguntia (that's Mainz to you modernists), soundly about the head and shoulders. Because you know? I don't care if you're just copying things out of formularies (or using formulae from memory) -- pronouns matter! Women aren't men, and the first person singular and plural are different things. Hmph.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Just remind me ...

Just remind me ...

I really don't like waiting till the last minute. I was so much happier last year when I was done with my paper before I turned in my taxes on time! Good news, though -- some of the work I've done for this paper (which will not fit in, unfortunately) has turned up some really interesting stuff. So interesting, in fact, that I think it will make the basis of a decent article all by itself. I ran it by LDW, and he actually used the word 'fascinating'. W00t!

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,929 / 3,100

update: Progress!

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2,199 / 3,100

Oh joy ... I may end up needing to cut

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2,720 / 3,100

Well, maybe not too much cutting
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3,002 / 3,100

Friday, May 04, 2007

In semi-seclusion

In semi-seclusion

Blogging (and much blog reading and commenting) has been temporarily halted due to paper-writing. Back later. Please continue your happy and efficient lives in my absence. My best to all of you who are grading (I've got that to do, too!). And if you are working on your K'zoo paper, well ... what are you doing here????

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,489 / 3,100

Of course, this is a first draft ...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another question

Another Vocab Question

For some reason, I've always translated dos as 'dowry'. But Stengl and Suzanne Fonay Wemple translate it as Morgengabe and 'Bridegift', respectively. Does anyone have a reference or two to whether the same word is used interchangeable for both dowry and bridegift, or when, if ever, that shift is made and dos is more normally used to mean 'dowry'??

Update: If anyone has electronic access to Diane Owen Hughes, "From Brideprice to Dowry in Mediterranean Europe," Journal of Family History 3 (1978): 262-96, and would be willing to send it to me, I would happily buy you a drink at Kazoo!

Update Again: Squadratomagico has kindly sent it to me!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Definition, please?

Definition, please?

Um ... reading a book. Came across the word "rebarbarative." Checked the OED online. It isn't there. I think the author meant "rebarbative"? But does anyone know if the former exists? Because I now know what the latter means -- and the author is right that going through the CDF and the Codex Laureshaimensis are pretty deadly. But I'd like to make sure that there isn't some other word out there that means something else. And ... OMG. I know that one can't simply say, "ploughing through these huge piles of documents, even though some nice German scholars have edited them for us, is a huge pain in the ass and quite possibly duller than watching too-thickly applied paint dry on a very humid day when you've a ton of things you'd rather be doing," but damn. I read a good bit. I'm fairly literate. And I've never seen this bloody word before, and can't really think that it increases clarity.

Well, yes, this does mean I'm working on something not directly related to teaching.