Monday, March 10, 2014

Impossible Words

by J J Cohen

[help Karl with his grad seminar!]

The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute will run two sessions this year at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo on "Impossible Words." The idea for the gatherings emerged directly from conversations after last year's session, as we found ourselves stuck on certain terms that forcefully resist explication and seem impediments that need to be surmounted. What would happen, though, if we could think with or alongside such difficult locutions rather than attempt to think past them? What if we give up on pinning such words to definitions they will quickly exceed and instead companion the trajectories of their meanings (historical and yet to come)? Twenty of us gathered at a boozy (that is, fermentation-rich) dinner quickly generated a list of more than twenty terms, and the idea for a double Kzoo session was born.

GW MEMSI's annual roundtable takes place on Thursday May 8 at 10 AM in Fetzer 1005. The lineup is spectacular:
Bliss Randy Schiff
Survival Dan Remein
Satisfaction Karl Steel
Chris Piuma
Tolerance Laurie Finke
Community George Edmondson
Collective Anne F. Harris (for the Material Collective)
I know it's early in the morning, but please come! Is there a better way to start the conference?

Well, maybe. GW MEMSI proposed a double session since we had so many impossible words, but apparently there was such an avalanche of proposals for sessions last year that some sponsoring organizations saw their total panels cut. I feel grateful to have our one, and don not envy the conference planners for the hard choices with which they were faced. Rather than give up on the second session, though, I had this crazy thought that maybe this thriving conference needs its own Fringe Festival to start expanding its reach into some unofficial and more experimental spaces. Luckily the Impossible Word panelists are naturally inclined towards such ideas ... and so I'm happy to announce a para-conference event that will occur on Wednesday evening in a brewery. That's right, in a BREWERY. Because we have impossible ideas to ferment, schemes to distill, yeasty terms to generate fizz.

Please join us Wednesday May 7 at 8 PM at some tables somewhere in the Eccentric Cafe (Bells Brewery, 355 E Kalamazoo Ave, an easy walk from the Radisson [where the shuttle bus will deposit you if you come from campus]) for the first ever Kalamazoo Rogue Session, on Impossible Words:
Marty Shichtman
Karen Overbey
Alan Montroso
Lara Farina
Jonathan Hsy
Anne Harris
Lowell Duckert
Eileen Joy
Jeffrey Cohen
ATTEND and BRING ALL THE FRIENDS. Not just scholars and medievalists, but everyone you know: this event is for all. Along with the cash bar serving some excellent brews, we promise sudden ideations and kettle-conditioned merriment to wash down all that thinking.

The Rogue Session is an experiment in para-conferencing. If you will be attending the Kalamazoo conference -- or if you'd just like a reason to make a crazy roadtrip -- please come and support this effort. We have no idea what will emerge from it, and we like that fact .... but we can accomplish nothing without your companionship.

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