Report on the AHA, Days 3 and 4

After a haitus of several weeks, I’m FINALLY back at the blog…I apologize profusely (which, if you think about it, is very annoying) for the gap between posts on the AHA.  It’s been holding up my blogging in general, as I can’t very well start blogging on other stuff when I haven’t finished discussing the conference!!

But, you know how it is.  I got back really late on Sunday (or early on Monday, depending on how you look at it)  which meant that Monday was shot.  And then I had to get a major application done.  And then settle down to finish up what turned out to be surprisingly labor-intensive edits to my article (which I sent off on Monday, mercifully).  And then, start looking at finishing up another article, getting serious with Chapter 4, and so on, and so forth…Enough, however.  It’s time to finish this up, and move on.  So, once again, I apologize for this long gap between reports.

There were a number of great papers from the last day-and-a-half of the conference, and some really entertaining events.  I began the day by having coffee with Matthew Gabriele and David Perry, fine gentlemen both, and then heard David’s paper on the Venetians’ use of St. George.  Great stuff.  In fact, the whole panel was great.  Rabia Gregory, from Missouri, presented a great paper on early print ‘pulp’ mystical tracts; Fabrizio Titone discussed the strategic use of churches in Itialian urban politics as political and communal spaces; Carrie Benes discussed the use of SPQR in late medieval papal relationships with Rome.  Really fascinating stuff, all of it.  Someone, I can’t remember who, remarked on how well the papers worked together.  David graciously invited me to go to lunch with the panel, and we repaired to this amazing crab shack, just across the street from the convention center.  It wasn’t expensive, and the food was just superb.  It was great to meet new people, or, in Rabia’s case (as I’d met her at Kalamazoo last year) to renew acquaintance.

The first afternoon session was in the same room, with Matt Gabriele giving a great paper on the particulars of immediate post-Carolingian exegesis of the last days, in the writings of Odo of Cluny and Adso of Montier-en-Der [sp?].    Then Phillip Haberkern presented on Jan Hus, his increasingly apocalyptic interpretation of his experiences, and the quick assimilation of his letters and writings into the Hussite movement.  Insightful commentary by Kate McGrath, and then a really great discussion.  All-in-all, another great session.

I admit that I hesitated a bit over going to the Society of Military History’s Marshal Lecture, mainly because I’d heard Dr. Gerhard Weinberg give his talk, “Myths of World War II,” before–I’d taken my class to hear it a couple years ago when he was visiting St. John Fisher College.  But I’m glad I went.  He’s a scholar of rare distinction, and his delivery is amazing.  And, there was a lot stuff I actually hadn’t heard before.  I’ll write up the details of his talk in a later post, as it covered a lot of ground.  At the reception afterward, I ran into Brian Price, whose name will be familiar to those who follow medieval European martial arts; I hadn’t actually met him formally before, and we had a great conversation.  I took my leave of the reception, in order to find one of my friends at the German studies reception…or something like that.  I paused on the balcony, overlooking the sports bar and plaza, however, and stayed to watch some of the Saints-Seahawks game.  And JUST at that moment, Marshawn Lynch busted out that amazing 40-yard touchdown run.  Talk about good timing!  [I refer to timing in catching great football, of course, not because I was rooting for the ‘Hawks; I wasn’t really rooting for either side…]

I wound up finding some friends after the screening of the film The Conspirator, and had a good time at the reception.  I didn’t see the film; why, I can’t fully remember at this point.  The cast was impressive, the story, from what I knew of it, sounded impressive, and friends of mine were suggesting I go.  I didn’t know about the new institute behind the film, which, from what I heard at the Q&A, sounds interesting–committed to cinematic excellence along with high historical standards.  And I have to say, pre-screening the film at the AHA, of all places, and then having the screenwriter and historian consultants handle a public Q&A, was a really brave.  But I didn’t go; I don’t usually go to film screenings at conferences, and I think I wasn’t sure how my evening was going to shape up beforehand.  Also, not to be a downer, but the film struck me as kinda like Titanic–we know what happened to Mary Surratt!!  So, anyway, I didn’t go, but my friend Tanya told me that the main problem with it, from a historiographic perspective, was that the movie was titled The Conspirator, but it wasn’t really about Surratt, it was about her lawyer.  And the screenwriter apparently explained his decision to focus on the lawyer…but still, it does seem like an odd disjuncture.   The Conspirator’s Lawyer wouldn’t have been a catchy title, though…

Sunday morning…yes, well, it’s no easier at the AHA than it is at Kalamazoo, that’s for sure.  BUT, I did attend a session, “Women’s Religious Patronage in Early Medieval Europe: Medieval and Modern Connections,” which I figured would make good reading for when I got my session notes polished up.  The papers were quite good, all around; I think the one I found most interesting was Mary Dockray-Miller’s talk on Judith of Flanders, Tostig’s wife, and her commission of the four books that have survived.  I have to say, however, that the attempt to combine medieval and modern didn’t come off too well; the commentary piece started off well, but wasn’t able to really tie themes and parallels together in a really effective fashion.  Still, a very good session.

So, that was the AHA.  Train was delayed by about 3 hours, and I was feeling considerably run down by the time it did arrive.  The trip back was anything but productive, unfortunately.  And so it was that I stumbled into the new semester…

Some final thoughts:  It feels very strange going to a conference in January.  I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t Kalamazoo–a point reinforced by the book deals, which weren’t nearly as good as at the Zoo.  Though I did score a bunch of good items from Penguin.   As far as the job center goes, it’s not really that intimidating.  The main things I took away, however, are a) submitting your CVs at the job center is really an afterthought to the job process; the main work is done long before, and b) you really, truly have to have PhD in hand, or at least have turned in the dissertation, to even be considered.  Well, a third point as well; the folks at the desk had two answers to the question, “can I include a cover letter with my CV?”  Some said yes, some said no.  Bottom line: include the bleepin’ cover letter.  You’re one-dimensional otherwise.  A CV is like historical “facts”; it doesn’t speak for itself, you speak for it.

It’s good to be back.  Onward and upward.  Or, as my friends and I sometimes like to say, “Strength and Honor.”

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