Borders without boundaries: a weekend with the Canadian Society of Medievalists

A guest post by Hana Videen, Department of English

Canadian Congress of the Humanities

In May I attended the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Medievalists. I received a Graduate School Conference Fund Grant to help with travel expenses. This year the conference was held at Brock University in St Catherines, Ontario.

The CSM meeting was part of the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, a week-long event that includes over 70 scholarly associations. Unlike academic conferences I had attended in the past, this Congress had scholars from diverse disciplines meeting on the same campus throughout the week, societies for medievalists, practical ethics, game studies, food studies, geographers, etc.

Brock UniversityThis meant that while the Congress had around 8,000 attendees over the course of the week, the conference I attended was actually quite small. There were only two sessions occurring concurrently at any given time, sometimes only one plenary session, and over the three days I was there, I had the opportunity to hear the work of and/or speak to the majority of the attendees, quite different from my experiences at other conferences. At first I was disappointed that there wouldn’t be more Anglo-Saxonists to talk to at CSM. However, my attitude changed, particularly after arriving at the conference and starting to attend panels on topics in which I would have had little interest if there had been a coinciding session on Old English poetry. I heard a fascinating lecture on the Romanesque fabric of Durham Cathedral and learned about the proto-flying buttress, a flying buttress ‘not quite out of the nest’. I heard papers like ‘Chaucer and film culture in pre-WWII America’, ‘The use of gems in the spells of the Picatrix’ and ‘Permeable boundaries between Christian and pagan enemies in the Baltic crusades’.

The theme for Congress 2014, ‘Borders without Boundaries’, ended up being particularly relevant to me, and a good reminder while writing up my very specialised research on what will seem to most as an ‘esoteric’ topic that there are, in fact, many borders still to be crossed within Medieval Studies as well as the vast scope of humanities research as a whole.

Based on an original post here: http://beoshewulf.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/borders-without-boundaries-a-weekend-with-the-canadian-society-of-medievalists/