Leeds 2013 report 4: What’s it all about then?

Since we’re now into November, my memories of the summer are fading fast and my notes from Leeds are looking more and more indecipherable, I’m going to whizz rather more quickly through my activities at the International Medieval Congress on Wednesday and Thursday. My Wednesday sessions were as follows:

1010 Texts and Identities, I: Governing the Body – Governing the Soul: Christianity and Society in the Carolingian Period

Meg Leja, Dissecting the Inner Man: Carolingian Advisory Literature and Medicine

Carine van Rhijn, Prepare for Pastoral Care: The Education of Local Priests – Some Manuscript Evidence

Ingrid Rembold, The Stellinga and Popular Christianity in Post-Conquest Saxony

Back to all-Carolingian stuff for a change, and probably my favourite session of the conference, with discussions of two important pieces of research on medical manuscripts (Meg Leja) and manuscripts used by local priests (Carine ven Rhijn). But what I enjoyed most was Ingrid Rembold’s beautifully-argued paper demonstrating just how little evidence there is about paganism among the Saxons after Charlemagne’s conquests: she gave a single sheet handout, that as she pointed out, included all the references in the sources to this. It was a very neat demolition of what people think “must” have been happening in the area, and I’m not sure anyone came up with a convincing counter-argument.

1116 The Pleasures of Vice and Virtue

Barbara H. Rosenwein, Taking Pleasure in Virtues and Vices: Alcuin’s Manual for Count Wido

Richard G. Newhauser, Sin, the Business of Pleasure, and the Pleasure of Reading: Exemplary Narratives and Other Forms of Sinful Pleasure in William Peraldus’ Summa de vitiis

Noëlle-Laetitia Perret, The Role of Pleasure in the Acquisition of Good Virtues: Giles of Rome’s Idea of Education in his De regimine principum, c. 1279

A session from which I remember oddly little, given it should have been right up my street. From my hazy notes, Barbara Rosenwein was mainly talking about the many emotions discussed by Alcuin in De Virtutibus et Vitiis and how Wido might have taken pleasure in reading it. I did like her description of treatises on the vices and virtues as “palaeo-psychology”, however. Richard Newhauser was demonstrating that medieval scholars were not wholly opposed to physical pleasures (partly in opposition to heretics who taught that there was only evil in matter). The paper I found most interesting (perhaps more as Mater than Magistra) was Noëlle-Laetitia Perret discussing Giles of Rome on child-rearing, and how pleasure should be used to train them: mainly in teaching them to like and dislike the proper things. Giles actually sounded relatively enlightened about this: the idea was to tame the animal-like child into a reasonable adult, but he seems to have started from a sensible idea of what children are like naturally, and how they might learn through play.

I had people to meet in the afternoon, but did manage to fit in one more session then:

1304 Re-Reading Carolingian Hagiographical Texts

Amy Bosworth Danger Around Every Corner?: Travel in the Carolingian World

Sukanya Rai-Sharma, Guntram of Ermanrich’s Vita Sualonis

Satoshi Tada, Hagiographic Traditions about St Maximinus (Mesmin) in the Early Middle Ages

This session suffered from being scheduled against one in which Mayke de Jong and Jinty Nelson were speaking, so had a very small audience, but I’d promised to go and hear Anya (who was giving her first conference paper), and was pleased I did: she was coming up with some interesting ideas about the motivations for Ermanrich of Ellwangen’s writing of the Vita Sualonis. This is a text which I admit I’m not at all familiar with, but whose style has been accused by previous scholars of resembling “the late-night ravings of a deranged mind”. Anya was pointing out how the relationship of Sualo to Boniface in the text paralleled that of Guntram (who requested the text) to his uncle Hrabanus Maurus. It’s another reminder that Carolingian hagiographical texts can be a lot more complicated (and varied) than we often imagine. And Amy Bosworth had some useful statistics on peasants travelling in Carolingian miracle stories (including the fact that they included a relatively large percentage of women (the ratio was 57:43 in the texts she examined). Maybe when we’ve finished Carolingian charter databases, we need to do some kind of prosopographical/quantitative database of Carolingian hagiography and see what else might fall out?

Finally for the day, I went off to the round-table on editing medieval texts (session 1428), where I suffered from my intermittent inferiority complex about not having done any editing and very little working with manuscripts and thus not being a proper medievalist. As usual, the format (only 1 hour and a lot of panellists) meant it was hard to get much of a discussion going, but there was an interesting suggestion (by Charley Insley, I think) about the possibility of using MOOCs for training in editing, since it’s getting harder to get training during one’s PhD.

The IMC now gradually seems to be expanding into a four-day conference, rather than a three and a half day on, so I ended up going to three sessions on Thursday. First of all there was session 1528 on the ChartEx project, about which I’ve already blogged.Then I went to the second of two sessions on Louis the Pious:

1603 The Reign of Louis the Pious and the Productivity of an Empire, II: The Return of the King

Courtney Booker, Theatres of Memory: Drama, Performativity, and Character in the Carolingian Era

Cornelia Scherer, Postcards from the Edge: The (Frankish) Letters of Gregory IV and the Productivity of a Crisis

Philippe Depreux, Thegan on Louis: On the Road to Rulership

Yet more Carolingian goodies, with Courtney Booker pointing out that even if we don’t have evidence of Carolingian developments in drama, we can talk about the effects of the artefacts of ancient drama on early medieval culture, and developing ideas he’s previously expressed on the role of dramatic conventions in Carolingian texts, especially Paschasius Radbertus. Then Cornelia Scherer was endeavouring to work out which of Gregory IV’s letters were genuine – she has a book about him due out soon, which should be very useful. Finally, we had Philippe Depreux arguing that the first part of Thegan’s biography (especially chapters 8-20) are a “Fürstenspiegel”, showing Louis developing as a perfect king. (Phillipe argued that Thegan, as a chorbishop, had less authority to give political advice than others, so he had to “smuggle it in” in this way).

I must admit this was one of those sessions that made me nostalgic for the days when I had time to read more research that wasn’t directly relevant to my own work. There’s been so much work on Louis’ reign since I completed my PhD thesis in 2005, and I haven’t kept up with a lot of it properly. Maybe once the Hincmar books are finished…

It’s at this point that my notes for IMC 2013 finish, although my session attending did not. My final session of the conference was chosen relatively late. Victoria Whitworth had left a comment (I think on Jon Jarrett’s blog) that she would be talking in a session on sex and churches. So how could I not go and hear that and meet her? I treated this as my annual Leeds opportunity for some art history, during which I would look at pretty pictures and not attempt to take notes, because I find it extremely hard to do so usefully during such talks. So thus it was that I went off to the (rather re-arranged) Session 1721:

Holy Bodies/Hellish Bodies?: Nudity and Sexual Figures in Religious Sculpture

Milagros Torrado-Cespón, Sex and Churches: Lust, Sin, and Protection in Romanesque Corbels

Victoria Thompson Whitworth, Nude Humility and Salvific Clothing: Christ, Adam, and Eve on Viking Age Sculpture at Barwick-in-Elmet, West Yorkshire

Victoria was giving a convincing re-interpretation of a piece of sculpture on a church cross, as not simply an image of God expelling Adam and Eve, but a more complex mix of that story and Christ’s salvation of humanity.

Large Stone Face 1

Face of Pre-Norman cross at Barwick

Milagros, meanwhile, was showing us pictures of indecent stonework from Galician churches. There was probably a serious academic point as well, but I was rather distracted by “yes, that does indeed look rather like an image of a penis” thoughts. It was quite a change for those like me who spend their time reading medieval sources rather than looking at them.

So that was my IMC 2013: fewer papers heard than some years, but more discussions outside sessions. The move to a single site really helped this, though there are still problems with some of the session rooms and I need to make sure I choose better accommodation for next year (the room I was in made Bodington Hall seem luxurious). I’ll be back next year, talking about clerical fathers and probably helping demonstrate the latest version of the Charlemagne project database, so I may see of my readers again there.


One thought on “Leeds 2013 report 4: What’s it all about then?

  1. Leeds 2013 report part 3This was the longest day of my attendance at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds last year, not just because of it ending in the dance but because it was the only day of the conference where I went to four sessions before the evening. I guess&…


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