Friday, May 23, 2014

Random Bullets of Berks

Here I am in Toronto, halfway through my first-ever Berks and, as usual, I'm not getting enough sleep. I've been having a truly excellent time, meeting people whose work I've known for ages, but have never met in real life. This is my third conference in six weeks, and frankly, I'm exhausted. But I'm also inspired. Conferences have a way of doing that. Book ideas, blog post ideas, people to write... Thank the gods I'm not doing any traveling this summer.

I would normally write a long, ruminative post about the experience, but as I said, I'm pooped. So here, in quick bullet-points version, are some of the experiences and thoughts running through my head at this, the halfway mark:
  • Coming as it does at the end of the semester for most of us, and post-Kalamazoo for us medievalists, organizing a blogger meetup seemed to fall by the wayside. Fortunately, Belle from Scattered & Random thought to put up a "who's going?" post, so I got to meet up with her for a lovely and leisurely breakfast the first day, on a day when I hadn't any panels to go to until 1:30.
  • That first premodern panel... let me say, I'm thrilled to know that the Berks organizers have, over the past decade, started to include more panels with premodern content. And the first panel on women in premodern courts contained everything from 14th-century Jewish women to women in colonial Virginia. Now, the next step is to get organizers to realize that we've got enough interest that we'll need bigger rooms (see photo below). Though, happily, the overcrowding seems to be not a symptom of neglect, but rather the fact that the organizers hadn't anticipated so many people showing up for the conference, period. All the rooms were overcrowded. Uncomfortable and possibly hazardous, but a good sign for the field in general.
We're gonna need a bigger boat.
  •  Toronto is a great city. But holy moly, it's expensive here.
  • 8 a.m. panel Friday honoring the contributions of Carolyn Walker Bynum... with CWB as a respondent. And I'm once again inspired by a combination of intellectual firepower and personal generosity. These are the kind of people I want to be when I grow up.
  • The panel I chaired and did comment for was lovely, with some really interesting papers. My favorite thought-provoking quote from a paper: "Patriarchy doesn't need to be consistent to be effective."
  • Lunches, dinners, and all sorts of chance encounters with friends and professional acquaintances who I haven't seen in years = very nice.
  • You know what's gratifying? Meeting grad students and professors who have read my book and liked it. With as few copies as it's sold, I have sometimes wondered if anyone has read it at all. But they have, and it appears to be making a difference.
  • Remember that book project that I long ago got scooped on? It appears to have become a growing field of inquiry in recent years. You know what's cool? I no longer mind.
  • ZOMG. Giant crowd for the panel on rethinking key analytical concepts: "gender binary," "gender crisis," and "agency" all came under scrutiny. I scribbled like mad.
  • Convocation! With Tenured Radical, who was there to announce that she had taken on the formidable task of designing a Berks website that actually made sense (yay!). I mentioned to the friend with whom I was sitting that I needed to dash down after we were done to say hi to her. "Do you know her?", she asked me. "Yes, for about seven years now... it's just that we've never actually met." But now we have. And she's excellent. And within 15 seconds of meeting asked "Do you want to be on my communications committee?" Uhhh... But because it's TR, and the Berks, I'll probably say yes.
  • Great dinner with more fabulous premodernist feminists, including former commenter K and one of Historiann's regular commenters EJ, with whom I got to talk with for ages over Too Much Pasta. We talked about second books, mid-career crises, and learning how to set our own agendas for the first time in what may be decades. All promised as blog fodder.

 Also: there are 2,000 people here, and I'm eating way too much.

And there are still two days left to go...


PhysioProffe said...

Toronto is NYC with a funny accent.

Susan said...

The Berks is awesome. I'm sorry I'm not there (in theory - in practice I never could have managed it.)

Belle said...

I offered to help TR's effort too!

Liz Lehfeldt said...

terrific summary. I was so sad to miss the Berks this year. Hope to be at the next one. And delighted that the premodern continues to make its presence known :-)