Sunday, October 05, 2008

Homeward bound

[illustration: Shriner liquor bottle with screw-off fez that serves as a shot glass, Moolah Lounge, Saint Louis; photo by Mike Smith]

by J J Cohen

It ended with a bang (a graduate student panel that indicated medieval studies' bright future) and a whimper (a small communal awwww that the event had to come to its end). I commend Eileen Joy, the local organizers (faculty and graduate students alike), Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Washington University, and every single conference participant for making SEMA one of the best confabs I've attended.

And now, after a week spent away, it is time to return home.

10 comments:

Eileen Joy said...

And let us not forget Southern Illinois University Edwardsville--my home institution, who co-hosted the conference with Saint Louis University--and the graduate students and faculty at Washington University in Saint Louis who organized so many excellent sessions and were also instrumental in bringing in Amy Hollywood. Here are the number of hours I slept--Wednesday night: 2 hours; Thursday night: 5 hours; Friday night: 3 hours; Saturday night: 4.5 hours. I will now descend to my basement vault and lie in a lead-lined . . . wait a minute . . . I mean, I will now simply go to bed. Good night [at 11:30 am on Sunday morning]!

theswain said...

If I could applaud over the Intertubes, I would. But Kudos to Eileen and my thanks to SLU, SIU, etc. I only was able to spend a day, but it was an enjoyable day and the panels I have to say were top notch. And chatting with Eileen (we were both in the same place at the same time and the earth did not stop spinning...amazing I know!), Mary Kate, and Jeffrey was delightful as always. Now to plan for MLA....

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

That is so important that I just added it to the post, Eileen, where it belongs. Me, I'll be going to bed any minute now, and am looking forward to getting more than 4 hours worth at time.

Karl Steel said...

Applause, and applause, and glasses raised for Joy, and SLU, and SIUE, for the many wonderful papers I witnessed, the many wonderful beers I quaffed, and the questions and the camaraderie and the conversation and the being-with. I'm glad to be a part of this world.

Highlights for me include: the two plenaries: I'd especially like to see Kruger's final paragraphs in print, maybe even here if he wanted to slum with the ITMers; Eros and Phenomenology II, especially for Cary Howie's affect: maybe he doesn't want fans, but he has them, and the afterconversation, where we all were, clearly, touched by Lara Farina; the Babel "Place of the Medieval in the Present" (which had a very welcome continuation of a certain Kzoo panel); and the first ever Babel grad student panel, which I hope we'll spend more time on here, later. Inspired by Liza, I know I'll have much to say on the Squyr of Lowe Degree.

Rick Godden said...

I whole-heartedly agree with Karl. You did brilliantly Eileen, and I feel privileged to have heard the plenaries.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Here were my highlights: seeing the two graduate students who came with me, Mike Smith and Lowell Duckert, deliver excellent papers that were met with penetrating questions; the Eros and Phenomenology panels by BABEL (though there wasn't all that much phenomenology, there was plenty of eros; Carrie Howie's paper was especially dazzling); a moment in my plenary when I discovered that pages ten and eleven of my talk were inverted: the 260 person simultaneous chuckle that I had lost my way after giving such a careful itinerary at the beginning made me happy that I'd accidentally shuffled the thing ... and can I also say that there is something beautiful about having that number of people attend to your words, their willingness to be touched by what you speak? What I felt throughout the talk was a profound gratitude; Steven Kruger's plenary, especially its crescendo, a powerful counterpoint to my own talk; the synchronicities, such as Eileen and I both writing of the Event, or Cary and I both ruminating on Gorgon heads and petrification; the panel on the place of the present, with Betsy McCormick's terrific use of the Long Now Foundation's project, Myra Seaman and Erica Carson's jointly delivered faculty-study collaboration, Justin Brent's stunning meditation on the jongleur (one of the best conference presentations I've ever attended); the closing BABEL grad student panel organized by Liza Blake, who gave a lively and much loved necrophilia talk. This panel featured superb work by our own Mary Kate (her most theory heavy piece ever), Dan Remein (who didn't know that theory and art were ever supposed to be separate), Blaire Zeiders. A sensitive response by Steven Kruger rounded it out, and what better way to end than to feature the rising stars of the field?

Liza Blake said...

It was a truly fantastic time, though I must say the whole experience exhausted me so much that I came home and slept -- without exaggeration -- for 16 hours. Looking forward to a 48+ hour nap after K'zoo.

My only regret is to have missed so many ground-breaking panels due to fretting in a corner. May I second, third, and throw in a final robust vote for Steven Kruger's explosive plenary paragraphs appearing on ITM? (not to mention JJC's pebble-oceans, which I dreamed of in my 16-hour napathon last night.)

Thank you all for being so wonderful and thought provoking!

Mary Kate Hurley said...

Wow, what a conference. I have so many things to say about it (and will say them, once I catch up on MY sleep!)...

highlights for me were getting to congratulate Larry Swain in person on completing his dissertation; all the BABEL panels; both plenaries, which were profoundly generative in a number of ways I'm only just beginning to understand; finally meeting Karma and Marcus at their Beowulf panel (because they both ROCKED); asking poorly formed questions that involved "temporality" at a number of sessions; going on an aventure to see the Mississippi River (for the very first time!) with Betsy, Justin and Teresa; a lovely lunch with Tony Halser and Masha Raskolnikov; finally meeting Michael Moore; Anne Clark Barlett's wonderful comments about the archive, and the intersection with my own interests about the perils of 19th century editions of Old English texts -- it's so good to know other people are thinking about these things!; Liza's fabulous paper on necrophilia, Dan's poetics, and Blaire's journey through Arthurian books and bones; Nicola's amazing question about...the question as ontology, a comment that will force me to think hard, for long periods of time, about something that will be very fruitful; and most of all -- every single person who attended, asked questions, and made comments. Friends old -- and new. And all the stellar work being done by graduate students (and undergrads, Erica Carson!), and being supported by those further on in the field. We may be young in the yards, but with an extended cohort like the one I was with this past week -- it's going to be a very, very fun career.

Thank you all. And again Eileen - kudos on a job well done.

Scott S. Boston said...

Where can I begin...

For me the most wonderful thing about the conference was the spirit of hospitality and welcome which pervaded the event. I am sure that was in no small part due to Eileen and for that she deserves great praise, for creating a space where this could happen. The panels I heard were incredible, filled with papers of sublime beauty in some cases. The plenaries were inspiring and gave me many ideas for my own work. But perhaps the greatest inspiration to me was the work of the fellow grad students which I was privileged to hear. It started on the first panel of the first day, with the papers by Denis an Travis, which followed a beautiful paper by Michael Moore. And of course, the final graduate panel which featured Dan, Liza, Blaire and Mary Kate. You all inspire me and I feel privileged to be included in whatever we are becoming. Ultimately though I am grateful for the friendships renewed and the new friendships made, I feel refreshed and invigorated, and cannot wait to see you all again. In the meantime, BABEL on!

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Oh yes, in all this praise of Eileen's organizing skills let us not forget her paper. The material she turned to (an odd and underdiscussed tale from Malory) is one that has been with her for a while. Here she used Caputo on the Event to render some textual strangeness active, transformative, and boundary breaking. It was quite a piece.