Saturday, November 28, 2009

MAP Sessions Accepted

More good news! Marcus Hensel and I submitted a pair of unofficially Mearcstapa-ish sessions to the Medieval Association of the Pacific, which were both accepted. These should be great sessions, and I hope some of the Western members will be in attendance. MAP puts on a good conference -- very friendly and collegial. Information is here. Our sessions are as follows:

Session: Silences and Gaps: The Missing Monsters -- Friday Session I

Session Presider: Marcus Hensel (student)

Speaker 1
Laurynn Lowe, Independent Scholar: Re-Membering Monsters: The Nature of Traits in Wolfram's Parzival

Speaker 2
Asa Simon Mittman, Chico State: Maps without Monsters

Speaker 3
Heather Bamford, University of California, Berkeley: Monster Esthetics, Material Monsters: Representing and Presenting Monsters in the Libro del conosçimiento de todos los reinos,
manuscript Z

Session: Naming, Knowing and Remembering Monsters—Session VIII (Saturday)
Session Presider: Asa Simon Mittman, Chico State

Speaker 1
Marcus Hensel, University of Oregon: Can the Monster Speak?: Silence and the Grendelkin’s Status as Monsters

Speaker 2
Joyce Lionarons, Ursinus College: Wulfstan’s Werewolf

Speaker 3
John Hill, U.S. Naval Academy: The Monstrous and Modified Heroism in Beowulf

Mearcstapa is heading back to Leeds

Good news! We have just heard back from the selection committee at Leeds, and our two sessions have been accepted, again. This will be our third run there, in an many years. This summer, our sessions will again be excellent. Here are the lineups:

Session 218
Session Time: Mon. 12 July - 14.15-15.45

Title: Exploring the Monstrous, I: Constructions of Identity
Abstract: This is one of two sessions on monsters and monstrosity submitted by MEARCSTAPA. The year's theme of Travel and Exploration is a perfect fit with our interest in monstrosity, a concept frequently linked to geography in the Middle Ages. These three papers focus on clothing, armor, and gender in constructions of monstrosity. The papers will interrogate the issue of where identity lies, on the outside or the inside, in the interior individual, in its body, or even in the clothing by which it is covered. In all cases, the construction of monsters bears important implications for our understandings of medieval notions of the human.

Moderator/Chair Jeff Massey, Molloy College, New York

Paper -a Queering Mandeville's Female Monsters: Transformative, Transgender, Transsexual
Speaker: Dana Oswald, Department of English, University of Wisconsin, Parkside

Paper -b 'The angels men complain of': Monstrous Masculinity in La Conte du Graal
Speaker: Karma de Gruy, Department of English, Emory University, Georgia

Paper -c Living Large and Leaving the Liminal: The Giant Saint and the Incarnation in the South English Legendary's Life of St Christopher
Speaker: Christopher Maslanka, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Session 318
Session Time: Mon. 12 July - 16.30-18.00

Title: Exploring the Monstrous, II: Geographies of the Monstrous
Abstract: This is one of two sessions on monsters and monstrosity submitted by MEARCSTAPA. The year's theme of Travel and Exploration is a perfect fit with our interest in monstrosity, a concept frequently linked to geography in the Middle Ages. These three papers focus on the geography of the monstrous, examining how the location of monsters impacted medieval concepts of monstrosity and identity. We will address not only accounts of people traveling to distant monsters, but also texts, images and maps, in which the monsters themselves are the travelers. The papers will address how maps were integrated into medieval understandings of location, identity, and even narrative structure.

Moderator/Chair Larissa Tracy, Department of English & Modern Languages, Longwood University, Virginia

Paper -a Monstrum viator: The Travelling Monsters of Herzog Ernst
Speaker: Debra Higgs Strickland, Glasgow Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, University of Glasgow

Paper -b 'On what maner he myght dyscrivyn hit aryght': Tundale, Monsters, and the Mappaemundi
Speaker: Michelle Kustarz, Wayne State University, Michigan

Paper -c Navigating the Margins: Sources, Analogs, Wandering Monsters, and the Digital Mappaemundi
Speaker: Asa Mittman, Department of Art & Art History, California State University, Chico

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mearcstapa goes South

Hi all,

I would like to report briefly on a MEARCSTAPA-related trip. This weekend I went to Tennessee for the first annual MART (Medieval And Renaissance Teaching) conference, sponsored by Carson-Newman College. The conference, with the occult-related theme of "The Monstrous Middle Ages and the Wretched Renaissance" was housed--for maximum irony, it would seem--at the Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center:

The setting, in the rural Smokey Mountains, was quite stunning and bucolic, and the deep porches, filled with rocking chairs, were ideal for viewing the fall foliage.

Nick Deford--my native guide and generous host, and the main designer of MEARCSTAPA's wonderful logo--and I took full advantage. Nothing like a fine, rustic country setting, but with free wireless.

There were many interesting papers, and I gave the keynote address, entitled "Can Monsters Really Take Up Half of My Survey Syllabus?" (The answer, of course, was "Yes!") Other papers covered witchcraft, the Reformation (Luther as a 7-headed monster), hermaphrodites, and the Inquisition.

The real highlight, though, was dinner at the Front Porch, which bills itself as a Hillybilly Mexican restaurant. Rather surprisingly good enchiladas accompanied by a live bluegrass duo. The joint is in Cosby, TN, which looked like a good town to find moonshine for sale. Really.

This was all good enough, but then (and I suppose that the fact that it was the day before Halloween probably played a role, here), in walked a nine-year-old zombie named London:

Here she is, talking with me. This is the little monster responding to my assertion that I was a "monster expert." When I called her a zombie, she pointed out that she was a girl, not a zombie, and, to prove this, she said "If I was a zombie, wouldn't I be eatin' your brains right now?" QED. She was already fabulous enough, but then, still in costume, she took to the stage and, accompanied by the bluegrass guys, sang Lee Greenwood's jingoistic "God Bless the USA," to the general delight of the crowd:

All was going well until she got to the part about New York (my homeland):

... To the hills of Tennessee
... Across the plains of Texas
... From sea to shining sea
... From Detroit down to Houston
... And New York to LA

After "Houston," she stopped, well, dead (get it? zombie?). She just couldn't get out those next words. I have never been to anywhere that was more foreign to me than Cosby, Tennessee, but it was all absolutely monstrous, and therefore all tremendous fun. I felt like every cell in my body was inscribed with an interlocking "NY."

My thanks to Mary Baldridge and L. Kip Wheeler for organizing the conference and inviting me out to spread the Gospel of Monsters! And to Nick, for hosting me for a bonus talk at UT, while I was in the area. Which brings me to my final note. The University of Tennessee has the skeleton of a centaur. Yes, that's what I said. Don't believe me? Check it out here! Now I know what to ask my dean for this holiday season.