I was in college when I first began to hear about academic medieval conferences. My medieval studies professor would sometimes disappear to present a paper, and then return with tales like how apparently Terry Jones (yes of Monty Python fame, but also medieval scholar) could drink them all under the table.
It’s been ten years since that wee undergrad listened to these tales over my heavily glossed Middle English Chaucer textbook, but I can now say that I have experienced my first taste of medievalist academia in the conference setting.
I traveled two weekends ago to Halifax Nova Scotia to attend the Atlantic Medievalists Association Conference. The line up of paper topics and presentations was a rich mix of art, music, literature and history, which made it not only a fascinating entrance into the medieval conference world but perfect professional development for my integrated humanities class.
Just the day before I left, I had taught on Gregorian chant, and the focus of the conference was the Salzinnes Antiphonal, a newly restored illuminated choir book of chant. The work itself was on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the opening evening the conference attendees (about 30-40 in total) got a tour of the exhibit guided by some of the very people who had led the restoration.
Attendees were a mix of post-docs, professors, students, chant scholars and musicologists, but all so kind and willing to chat with a mere high-school teacher with a master degree .
The next day there were four panels, each consisting of around three papers, basically a 20-minute lecture or presentation each. The topics ranged from female reading practices in the Middle Ages, the political implications of some Old French poetry (beautifully read aloud), manuscript marginalia, Middle English poetry, and much to do with early sacred music.
By the end of the day my brain felt full, but pleasantly so. The day had been the academic equivalent of a multi-course meal. The conference culminated in the restored manuscript from the gallery being performed at the Basilica, the first time in many hundreds of years.
In addition to the conference, the other amazing aspect of the trip was getting to experience Nova Scotia with this gal, my cousin Jessica.
She is one of the strongest, remarkable people I have ever known and just the best in general. We have been planning international travel together since we were small kids, and this trip we finally made it happen. She explored on her own during the conference, and then we met up afterwards to take on the beautiful city of Halifax.
And find all the tasty foods.
Splendid weekend for a business trip, and an excellent first dip in the academic pond that is medieval conferences.