Sunday, May 15, 2011


Oh but there were so many pictures to be taken that I couldn't! The esteemed canon law scholar having a go at blowing some impossibly large hunting horn; the prom kids in restaurants (Kalamazoo is always during prom week-end in town); my monk and my Chaucerian hipster in the cafeteria...  Pictures not taken are emblematic of Kalamazoo: there are 580 sessions and 3000 people, and so, no you're not going to get to every session and you're not going to see everyone you want to.  It is an embarrassment of riches. I hit a point of emotional exhaustion (from sad parent stuff, not from the congress) on Friday night and missed out on a great writing session with friends (say the word "Manifestival" and see if you don't feel happier!) and a celebration of an incredible new book series. But (and this gets said a lot) there will be other Kalamazoos. I have been coming here, having missed maybe only two or three times, for 19 years. Embarrassment of riches. Last night I missed the dance due to a marathon ICMA Board Meeting (students: see this as a sign of its stamina and join!!).  Yes, I said dance. In the beforetime, we would pile into cars and make the drive from the University of Chicago to Kalamazoo early Thursday morning. From then, it was non-stop sessions and passionate discussions about the upheavals to art history we were going to provoke. Then, Michael Camille would put on his red shoes, and we'd all go dancing until God knows when. In this before time, the dance was not held in the Ballroom of the Bernhard Center, with its air conditioning and its carpet; it was in the cafeteria of the dorm known as Valley II - think linoleum and concrete and windows that open just a little bit and (now unthinkable) an open bar and pretty close to 3000 medievalists dancing all night long. We called it the Dance Macabre.  But at the same time, the dance was/is? the great humanizing factor of Kalamazoo, maybe even of medieval studies - esteemed scholars sweating it out to "Brick House" and "YMCA" and the release and freedom (and intrigue and passion) of it all.  Last time I went was five years ago - I wound up giving birth to Eleanor two weeks later instead of the predicted three.  I smile to think on it.

Well, I'd best pack and get ready for breakfast with a scholar whose stained glass image of Charity stabbing Christ (while putting her arm around his neck) made people gasp yesterday (can't wait!), but I should say that the stained glass sessions were terrific. There were new images, new ideas, lots of energy in the room. My dear friend gave a paper on Franciscans' conception of glass as a spiritual tool that was fantastic - all of the papers were good, and it really was kind of incredible to see stained glass (dubbed a "minor art" by art historical categories) not just front and center, but interconnecting with other art forms and spaces.  For the record, my paper was well received - I loved the questions I received about laughter in Chaucer, and people seemed taken with the ideas of stained glass as a speculative framework for inscrutable or boundless narrative. Afterwards (this is when people come up to you more informally), the word that was used over and over again was "beautiful."  This, I treasure most of all.  The writing of this paper was deeply influenced by the writing I do out here, which itself finds any courage to be that it has in the writing I follow at In the Middle, and have heard at the BABEL and Objects conferences.  That the result of this collaboration is the rush to tell me that my paper was beautiful is an absolute wonder to me.  I am not on the ground or in the archive enough to do that incredible discovery of art history (and I live for those papers when I come here) in which new images are revealed and new connections are made.  But if I can offer writing deemed beautiful about a medium as wondrous as stained glass in a place as fantastic as Chaucer's imagination, well, then, I must keep on just this way.


  1. So sad I missed your session - damn scheduling conflicts! Ours had a very small audience but nevertheless a great discussion took place, but damn I wanted to hear your talks. Maybe you and N can post them to the group or something, for those of us who missed it?

  2. There _did_ seem to be an unusual amount of scheduling heartbreak this year - time to get some avatars going. hi there - YES! Maybe we can use GoogleDocs or some such - it was joyful to give those papers, buoyed by our Bell's evening a couple of nights before. I'd love if it you posted your as well. Now, do you have another fabulous article with which I can start my class in the fall in the way that I started my "Women and Medieval Art" class this spring with your most excellent "Immediacy of Objects" piece? I'll be thanking you for that for years.

  3. Ah, you are so kind! Perhaps, what class are you teaching this fall?! :) And yes, I'd be happy to post that to the group as well.

  4. Very Beautiful and excellent. Thanks for sharing with us.

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