22 June 2011

Medieval conference report

The college where I teach is helping me out financially with the expenses of my recent trip to Kalamazoo, and I wrote a little summary of the trip upon my return. Here are some bits of that report; I hope to write a more detailed report of each paper, etc., but we'll see. Sorry this is a bit self-absorbed; I had to prove that this trip was worth the college paying for, which it was!

My recent travels to Kalamazoo were centered around the 46th International Congress of Medieval Studies. This conference ran for four days and included panels of papers read by scholars, a plenary session by a pre-eminent expert on Byzantine art, a concert of music on reconstructed historical instruments, and fellowship with other teachers and academics. Here are some benefits I gained from attending this conference:

1. Improving personal scholarship: I presented a paper entitled “Double Affirmation: Medieval Chronology, Geography, and Devotion in the Arthuriad of Charles Williams.” Because I spent three days researching at the Marion Wade archives in Chicago in preparation for this paper, it is by far the most rigorous (from a scholarly point of view) paper I have yet written. I know that preparing it honed my skills as a writer, researcher, and communicator. Reading it out loud was good practice in public speaking/lecturing. I have already seen, in the summer course I am teaching, that I continue to learn how to teach organized writing, honest research, and clear communication. This also added to my ease at speaking in front of a group.

2. Adding to my professional resume: The organizer of my panel, Dr. Cory Grewell of Thiel College, is co-editing a volume to contain all of the papers from our panel, as well as others on the topic of “Medievalist Fantasies of Christendom”; my chapter in this book will be my first official academic publication (although I have published many reviews and short articles on arts and culture).

3. Increasing my awareness of contemporary cultural and academic trends: I attended a panel on 21st-Century Medievalism, which discussed films, novels, and video games in light of Medieval scholarship. This added to my growing study of contemporary movements in the arts. I wrote an article upon my return that reflected on some aspects of this knowledge; it will be published soon in the Curator online journal, so keep your eyes open there. All the knowledge I can gain about current trends helps me to understand my younger students and their generation and to connect learning to the wider culture.

4. Adding to my knowledge of the Inklings: I believe that the timeless value communicated through the Arthurian story and the writers of the Inklings, as well as a knowledge of history, can help to transform the lives of students. The panel in which I participated was called “Medievalism as a Christian Apologetic in the works of the Inklings.” The Oxford “Inklings” are a group of writers particularly relevant to today’s young people, enamoured as they are of fantasy literature and film. I find that references to The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia ring true for many of my students. I also attended two panels on the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and one on the work of C. S. Lewis, all of which added to my growing knowledge of this group of writers.

5. Inspiring further work: Moving about among over 3,000 scholars and over 600 sessions of papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, and performances, and listening to presenters talk about their methodology and discoveries was challening and inspiring. I was encouraged to continue my studies of the work of Charles Williams and received information about how to begin preparing for a PhD programs.

I would LOVE to teach an elective course on the Inklings or Arthurian Legends in Litearture and Film on the college level sometime! Maybe I can approach my department with this suggestion…

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