Sunday, July 20, 2008

This conference

This is the first time I've been a participant at this particular conference, though I was once an outside-ish observer (the very green grad student assistant for the campus organizing it), and I'm noticing something about it that may or may not be characteristic of it. Perhaps those of you more in the know can tell me if I'm wrong or right.

While there are lots of very good things about it, it's also very full of anxiety, insecurity, and posturing. It's as bad as MLA, and yet there are no job interviews here. But for some stupid reason, people are acting as if there were, like they have to be "on" all the time. Not everyone (not any of the friends of this blog), but a lot of people.

I don't think I want to come back. Even Medieval Academy is mellower than this (especially when it hooks up with the Medieval Association of the Pacific -- then it *rocks*).

But still, there's one very awesome thing about this conference this year: castles. Got to climb all over two of them today. I'll post pictures when I get them up.

PS -- More small world stories: on the first morning at breakfast, I tried to sit and eat alone because I was still very, very tired, but I was joined by a complete stranger, and so had to make small talk. Turns out she was born and raised in Rust Belt! So small talk was easier than I thought it would be. Hooray for Rust Belt -- bringing strangers together!


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I've been to this one only once before, & I haven't so much noticed the tension either time. I've been having a pretty good time, partly because I know a lot of people here (especially compared to Leeds). OTOH, I have noticed in myself a certain degree of insecurity along the lines of "oh, I'm nobody, I don't dare even speak to Famous Paleographer," so you may simply be more observant than I am (not hard, some would say). It was fun hanging out with you on the castle trip. You have a soothingly cool/calm presence.

Dr. Virago said...

Soothing? Calm? Huh. You know, a friend from college once said something similar. On the *inside* I feel like quite a nutty spaz, so this projected version of me intrigues me.

I liked hanging out with you, too. You were very definitely NOT one of the people doing the posturing, and for that I was extremely grateful.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I am so sorry to have postured so much! But I have to insist that I was only pretending to posture, so it was posturing at posturing, and that doesn' count. Does it?

But more seriously I think that many people become anxious at this conference because it is small, and everyone spends a lot of time together ... and it can be scary to turn around and suddenly have David Wallace or Carolyn Dinshaw staring at you. I'm not sayng it SHOULD be, but let's face it for many of us it is -- and thus the lack of an off button for many attendees.


PS I am glad you went, and still cannot believe that you purloined that Famous Medevalist's credit card. I'm relieved that you eventually gave it back.

Dr. Virago said...

Jeffrey, maybe because you were trying so hard not to burn us to a crisp with your Stare of Death, you started posturing instead, in some strange conference version of the return of the repressed.

And it only looked like I gave Famous Medievalist her card back. Actually, by sleight of hand, I also stole her final dinner ticket and last I saw her she was desperately trying to buy one off of one of the local organizers.

(Seriously, for posterity's sake, and because my family reads this blog: I did NOT steal anyone's credit card. I up with someone's credit card. I gave it back promptly.)

Anonymous said...

Forget the credit card. I'm still flummoxed over the "soothingly cool/calm presence!"

Hope you are enjoying the trip.

medieval woman said...

Hey Dr. V - we talked about this before lunch the other day - I know what you mean and I observed a bit of it myself (although not in the same context). I'm still glad we got to hang out a bit - and I was happy to crawl all over the first castle with you - which means that I apparently also crawled all over that castle with Dame Eleanor AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT!!

At any rate, I'd love to see the pics when you put them up - you had a proper camera unlike my phone. The murder holes - oh my!

Anonymous said...

Hmm . . . I didn't see a lot of this, but then again this was finally the conference where I decided that trying to get quality-time with the big names I know (and losing out to their long-established friends) was Quixotic. The conference is just too big to succeed in that much cohort-breaking.

(One thing that pleased me, though, was that most of the name-tag checking that I saw was followed up by actual conversation instead of swift ditching to more prestigious targets.)