There are more things to say about K-zoo this year, but I’m still recovering and all my little cognitive workers are still unpacking from the trip, re-filling things, and gathering up all that cardboard and those little bags of air they pack books in, to get the offices back into order for the rest of the week. For now, the best I can do is record the new intake of books.
I was as disciplined as possible in my book buying this time. I declined several titles and I studiously avoided browsing when I knew I had reached my limit. The final day fire-sale at Powells did add three more titles, but these were worth the added weight. Here is the haul:
The preliminary session catalogue for the 48th International Congress of Medieval Studies is out. The Congress, hosted for more than 48 years at the charmingly institutional grounds of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Michigan is affectionately called The Zoo by most, and K-soo be PBS. There are over 800 papers spread over 4 days. Free footnote curiosities for the readers who correctly identify my humble (and potentially problematic) contribution!*
*Some restrictions apply. Contestants who know the super-secret identity of PBS are ineligible. Footnotes may not actually fascinate or edify. For entertainment purposes only. Do not take intravenously. Prizes are non-transferable. Void in Uruguay.
With a certain ominous inevitability reserved for Greek tragedy, the monthly review has returned to PBS bearing in its ropey arms the trophies and wounds of another 30 days of a DPhil in Oxford. Apparently the review carries some repressed literary aspirations as well. Rest assured, that early flourish is probably all it can muster. Rest in the warm, if dry, embrace of a largely inconsequential update of the last month.
The ICMS (k-zoo for short) is a very interdisciplinary conference and what’s more, it welcomes a large number of non-academics and ‘independent researchers’ who attend sessions and present papers. K-zoo is filled with a heady mix of traditional historians interested in the great men and important events of the past, social historians who dabble in anthropology, specialists in archeology, classics, material studies, along with literary scholars, philosophers, engineers, and monks. Yes, monks (and nuns to).
Bartolus de Saxoferrato (1313-1357) a Bolognese jurist, constructed one of the more ingenious arguments for special legal and social privileges for academics. The legal codes of Justinian defined the athletic hero as one who survived “at least three trials of courage in competition.”* Bartolus reasoned that the heroic trials of the academic began during the student years with constant testing by the Masters. The second trial took the form of the private disputation — the equivalent of the thesis defence. The final trial was the public disputation under the scrutiny of the University and the academic public. We might understand this now as the conference paper. Bartolus went further than the Roman legal precedent and claimed that his contemporary academic trials were the same, conceptually, as the joust and deeds of arms that defined the martial elites.
I survived the huge conference this week without any major trials of endurance, and returned with a mildly shameful quantity of books. One of the titles in the stack was actually free. It’s a review copy for one of my associations. Try and guess which one is the review book.