ICMS 2014

Medievalists from around the world delivered a welcome gift to Kalamazoo, Michigan, in early May–spring! When we arrived on Wednesday the 7th, very few trees had leafed out. But by midday Sunday, as we were bidding farewell to colleagues many of us see but once a year, the trees were sporting delicate leaves, and a riot of sudden blossoms perfumed the air. It’s the least we can do in return for the city’s generosity in hosting the 3 1/2 day International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University.

Some of this year’s highlights for me: we might think of the mercenary John Hawkwood as an entrepreneur. Hawkwood noticed that the Italian merchants were too busy making money to defend their city-states, so he went into business doing it for them. The “aelf” element in Anglo Saxon names refers to elves, or those who become soul wanderers in death. They were guardians of morality, executing their harsh judgments by inflicting illnesses and altering mental states. But they could be brought to settle into the body of a newborn among their kin and so be quieted by conferring their name on the child, prefixed by the “aelf.” There were rules about the frequency within immediate families, the father and one daughter, or the mother and one son might serve this purpose. After Christianity muddied the waters, the prefix no longer carried this significance. A wonderful session by members of the department of archaeology, University of Reading (UK), about what they are learning from the graves of adolescents. How hard they worked, the types of injuries they suffered, and the fact that they had a longer adolescence, as far as body development, than we do. A young man did not grow into his full musculature until his early 20s. The fusion of the iliac bone on the pelvis of young women, which is the signal for a safe pregnancy, was in the late teens, which might explain the later marriages or the practice of delaying consummation, and why some royal brides who bore a child at an early age never bore another.

9781843843689I managed to pick up a copy of my dear friend Laura Hodge’s new book, Chaucer and Array: Patterns of Costume and Fabric Rhetoric in the Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde and Other Works, so that she could autograph it for me.

97801982019469780199255849And from Oxford University Press I ordered two new books on York: York: the making of a city 1068-1350 by Sarah Rees Jones, and Medieval York by D M Palliser.

Later this week I’ll try to make some sense out of my copious notes from the Society of the White Hart sessions.

6 Comments on “ICMS 2014

  1. I haven’t been able to make the pilgrimage to Kalamazoo in a few years, and your update made me think I’d better go in 2015! Thanks for the update on the terrific new books. Speaking of which, my friend Tanya Stabler Miller just published a wonderful volume ‘The Beguines of Medieval Paris: Gender, Patronage, and Spiritual Authority,’ that you might enjoy. Lots to read, always 🙂 Happy spring to you and Emma!


    • I’m happy to inspire you! As for Tanya’s book, I noticed the announcement on medfem and have already coaxed her into doing a guest post–watch for it soon! Happy spring to you, too, Jennifer!


  2. Thank you for this wonderful update on Kalamazoo! Intriguing research notes and book recommendations are always appreciated. I hope to see you next year at K-zoo as well as in Seattle! Have a wonderful summer 😉


    • My pleasure! It would be great to see you there and here.


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