Since 2011 is coming to a close, and everyone is writing their reviews of the year, I thought I’d offer a round-up of the academic conferences I’ve attended this year. It’s been a good year for conferences, and I’ve been to some fantastic events. This post is a taste of my year in conferences.
6-9 Jan: Gender and Medieval Studies: Gender, Time and Memory
University of Swansea
My first conference of the year was the annual Gender and Medieval Studies conference, held this year at the University of Swansea. The keynote speakers at the 2011 conference were Diane Wolfthal (Rice University), who spoke on serial marriage in the Middle Ages, and Elizabeth Robertson (University of Glasgow), who spoke on gender and the translation of empire. My own paper was entitled: Reading Marie de France’s Muldumarec: Blood, Masculinity and Devotion. The 2012 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference will be hosted at the University of Manchester on 11-13 January 2012. I’m on the organizing committee for the 2012 event, along with my former PhD supervisor (Anke Bernau) and one of her current PhD students (Daisy Black).
7-8 Mar: Before Man and God: Sin, Confession, Forgiveness and Redemption in the Anglo-Saxon World (MANCASS Postgraduate Conference)
John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester
In 2011, the annual MANCASS postgraduate conference explored sin, penance and forgiveness in the Anglo-Saxon world, and was organized by PhD student, Chris Monk (University of Manchester). I didn’t speak at the conference, but I chaired a session on the second day, with papers on the Old English Martyrology and male sexuality in the Anglo-Saxon penitentials. As always, the postgrad conference coincided with the annual Toller Lecture, which was given this year by Professor Barbara Yorke (University of Winchester), who spoke on ‘King Alfred and the traditions of Anglo-Saxon kingship’. The 2012 MANCASS postgraduate conference will focus on domestic life and lifestyle in the Anglo-Saxon period.
After the conference closed on 8 March, a number of us headed over to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for the launch of In Strange Countries: Middle English Literature and its Afterlife (ed. by David Matthews), a collection of essays in memory of J.J. Anderson.
11-12 Mar: ‘The Ideal Woman’: Interrogating Femininity Across Disciplines and Time
Queen’s University, Belfast
This interdisciplinary conference, exploring representations and constructions of femininity across different time periods, was organized by QUB postgraduate students to celebrate International Women’s Day. My paper was entitled: Gothic Lolitas: Infantilization and Idealization in Contemporary Teen Fiction.
17-19 Mar: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness
This was the 12th annual Perspectives on Evil conference, organized by Inter-Disciplinary.Net. My paper was Her Husband’s Goods: Women, Shopping and Evil in the Later Middle Ages, and was part of a panel on women, evil and shopping I organized with independent reasearcher, Linda Maguire. I originally met Linda a few years ago at an ID.net conference on monsters, and we came up with the idea for the shopping panel at a 2010 conference on Magic and the Supernatural in Salzburg. Having spent a lot of time emailing each other about evil and shopping, it was really great to eventually bring everything together and present our papers. Unfortunately, the third member of our panel wasn’t able to make the conference, but Linda and I really enjoyed the way the session turned out. The 2012 Perspectives on Evil conference will be held on 15-17 March 2012, in Prague.
13-15 May: Evil, Women and the Feminine
My second ID.net conference of the year was the third annual Evil, Women and the Feminine conference. My paper was entitled: Watch Out Boy, She’ll Chew You Up: Werewolf Mouths and the Vagina Dentata. It was great to catch up with people I’ve met at previous ID.net events, especially Sorcha Ní Fhlainn and Ann Marie Cook (who is currently organizing a conference on the TV show Skins and popular culture). I also got to catch up with Simon Bacon, who I met at the De Montfort Vegetarians, VILFs and Fang-Bangers conference in 2010. EWF was also where I met Gráinne O’Brien for the first time, who is organizing the Magic is Might 2012 conference at the University of Limerick (23-24 July 2012), and Eileen Pollard, who went on to work with me on organizing the Hic Dragones Afterlife of Alice conference. The fourth Evil, Women and the Feminine conference will run 6-8 May 2012, and will be held in Prague.
I’m currently in the process of editing a dialogic collection of essays that have developed out of this conference, to be published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2012.
16-18 May: The Gothic: Exploring Critical Issues
I stayed on in Warsaw for a second ID.net conference, this time on the Gothic. My paper for this conference was: Glitter Gothic: Uses of the Past in Contemporary YA Fantasy Fiction.
Following this conference, I was asked to be guest blogger on the University of Stirling’s Gothic Imagination website.
28 May: Thought this date was worth mentioning. In June, I mark GCSE papers for one of the exam boards (something has to pay for all my conference travel, after all). Before beginning the marking, I attended the standardization meeting in Birmingham, and this year decided to combine this with meeting up with someone I’d been chatting to on Twitter, whose sister attended the She-Wolf conference in 2010. We went for dinner, fell in love, and have been together ever since.
4-5 Jun: Trailtrekker
Not an academic event, but an Oxfam one. I’ve been volunteering for Oxfam since I was 16, and usually run one of the checkpoints at Trailtrekker, a sponsored 100km hike for teams of four that takes place around Skipton in Yorkshire. My role involves supervising volunteers, checking teams in as the arrive at our checkpoint and generally standing in a field for 27 hours making sure things run smoothly. I’ve stewarded at music festivals for Oxfam since 1997, but got involved with Trailtrekker when it started in 2009, as I fancied trying something a bit different.
6-7 Jun: Education and Ignorance: The Use of Knowledge in the Medieval World
John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester
This was the third annual University of Manchester Postgraduate Medieval Studies conference. I chaired the first session, which was oddly ‘Katherine’ themed, with papers from Katherine Frances (on Saint Margaret of Antioch), Katherine Harvey (on episcopal elections) and Emily Dalton (on Capgrave’s ‘Life of Saint Katherine’). This was followed by the keynote paper by Carolyn Muessig (University of Bristol), who spoke on scholasticism and women’s religious education. This conference was organized by three postgraduate students from the University of Manchester: Robert Mitchell, Stephen Gordon and Daisy Black.
26-28 Jun: Can’t Buy Me Love? Sex, Money, Power and Romance
Fales Library and Special Collection of New York University
This month, I made my first ever trip to the US to attend the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance conference in New York. My paper for this conference was entitled: ‘Hit Cost a Thousand Pound and Mar’: Love, Sex and Wealth in the Fourteenth-Century Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle. This was also the only conference of the year where I received some funding, getting a small travel grant from the Romance Writers of America. The conference keynote was given by Laura Kipnis. I also enjoyed papers by Ann Herendeen (author of Pride/Prejudice), who spoke on ‘The Upper-Class Bisexual Man as Romantic Hero’, and a panel by Katherine E. Lynch, Ruth Sternglantz and Len Barot (of Boldstokes Books), who spoke on contemporary lesbian romance and the queer female hero. Len Barot writes paranormal romance under the name L.L. Raand, and her alpha (Sylvan Mir) recently won ‘Best New She-Wolf’ on this site. It was also nice to catch up with Jonathan Allan, who I first met in 2010 at the ID.net Monsters and the Monstrous conference.
29 Jun: After the conference finished, I had a spare half-day to myself (not really a lot of time, since it was my first trip to New York!), so I decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for few hours before I headed off to the airport.
30 Jun: I landed in Manchester at 9am, and headed straight off to the station to catch a train to London. A couple of us had tickets for the British Museum’s Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe exhibition. This was a really stunning display of reliquaries and devotional objects, with some breath-taking pieces. Also, I can now say that I went to both the New York Met and the British Museum within the same 24-hour period... I’m quite proud of that.
5-6 Jul: Wounds in the Middle Ages
John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester
This was an invite-only workshop on wounds and wounding in the Middle Ages, organized by Cordelia Warr and Anne Kirkham from Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Manchester. I spoke on Christ, Wounds and Romance. This was, without doubt, one of my favourite academic events of the year. The range of papers was fantastic, and speakers covered early and late medieval culture, European and Arabic medicine, literary and historical sources, religious and secular material. Every paper was fascinating, but I particularly enjoyed Anthony Bale’s presentation on the circumcision of Christ.
27-31 July: Camp Bestival
And now I took a little break from conferences to do some more volunteering for Oxfam, this time as a festival steward. My first festival of 2011 was Camp Bestival. As a side note, one of the people I was working with performs as Dolly Delicious with the Ooh La Las, who I’m hoping to book for one of the 2012 Hic Dragones events.
2-7 Aug: Big Chill
After Camp Bestival, and a night’s stopover in Stroud, I headed up to Big Chill for a bit more stewarding.
24-29 Aug: Leeds Festival
My third and final festival with Oxfam for 2011.
6 Oct: A Journey Through Wonderland: Alice in Multimedia
Portico Library, Manchester
No conferences in October, but I did attend the preview evening of the Portico’s Journey Through Wonderland exhibition, which featured various illustrations and interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels. The exhibition was launched by Vanessa St Clair, the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, and was curated by librarian Emma Marigliano, who worked with me to co-promote this event with the Hic Dragones Afterlife of Alice conference (which ran the day after the exhibition closed). As well as the exhibition, the Portico also hosted a series of talks on Alice in Wonderland and its legacy, including a brilliant talk on 12 October from John Reppion and Leah Moore on their Complete Alice in Wonderland.
26-31 Oct: Bram Stoker Film Festival
Not really a conference, but I went spent four lovely days in Whitby, and attended the Bram Stoker Film Festival. You can read my review here.
2-4 Nov: Vampires: Myths of the Past and the Future
IGRS, University of London
This conference, organized by Simon Bacon, explored the various manifestations of vampire myths in literature, film, history and folklore. My paper was entitled: Vampires in Those Days: Interrogating Master Narratives. This conference was quite intense, with long days filled with lots of excellent papers. It was also notable for offering the most amazing list of keynote speakers: Milly Williamson, Catherine Spooner, Ken Gelder and Stacey Abbott. I was particularly pleased to be able to meet Catherine Spooner, as her work (especially Contemporary Gothic and Fashioning Gothic Bodies) has been really influential on my own. Catherine is currently involved in organizing the Capturing Witches: Histories, Stories, Images (400 Years After the Lancashire Witches) conference, to be held at the University of Lancaster on 17-19 August 2012. As well as the four keynote papers, this conference incorporated the annual Coffin Trust Lecture (an unintentional pun), which this year was given by Sir Christopher Frayling, who spoke on ‘The Nightmare of Bram Stoker’. As well as listening to some great papers, it was nice to meet Jim Doan and Barbara Brodman (who are currently working on a two-volume collection of essays entitled The Universal Vampire) and Clemens Ruthner (who is organizing a ‘Vampires and/as Science’ conference, to be held 5-6 July 2012 at Trinity College, Dublin). And I got chance to catch up with Gráinne and Sorcha.
18-20 Nov: The Monster Inside Us, The Monsters Around Us: Monstrosity and Humanity Conference
De Montfort University
This was a three-day interdisciplinary conference, exploring monsters and monstrosity across different time periods and cultures. My paper was titled: Battle Not With Monsters: Slayers from Beowulf to Buffy, the beginning stages of a new project that I’m hoping to write up as journal article at some point in 2012. The conference was organized by Deborah Mutch (De Montfort University), and had keynote papers from David Punter (University of Bristol) and Andy Mousley (De Montfort University). Andy has recently set up an interactive website called SageBites, which offers reflections on quotations for life.
1 Dec: Further Adventures in Wonderland: The Afterlife of Alice
Hic Dragones, Manchester
My final conference of the year was the one I was most nervous about, as it was the first event organized by my publishing and events company, Hic Dragones. The conference was held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, and explored the various representations and interpretations of Alice in Wonderland that have come after Lewis Carroll’s novel. My paper was entitled: Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Whimsy: Generic Definition and Jeff Noon’s The Automated Alice. Our keynote paper was given by Will Brooker (Kingston University), author of Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture, and other papers covered books, films, computer games, Disneyland rides and pop music. We were also happy to have Mark Richards (of the Lewis Carroll Society) and Emma Marigliano (of the Portico Library) in attendance, as both were very supportive of the conference. I was also assisted in the organization of the event by Eileen Pollard, a PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University.
I am planning a collection of essays based on this conference, which will expand on the topics discussed during the day.