Monday, May 17, 2010

The Medievalist experiences a Renaissance

Every year in Kalamazoo, Michigan, there is a major medieval conference where 3,000 medievalists from all of the world gather for a 4 day conference. Those who study music, history, literature, theology, all come together to present research on various and sundry medieval topics. This was my third time going, and it was fantastic. It is refreshing to know that there are so many other people who have devoted their professional lives to researching topics in this field.
I gave my paper on Saturday, and must admit, the butterflies set in when the preeminent scholar of my field came in. I am still very new and young in this field, so I certainly wanted to make a good impression to this person who has profoundly shaped my own research. Once I started to speak, the butterflies settled. Every time I looked up, it seemed as if people were engaged in the topic and more important, no one was nodding off! At the end, there was time for questions and comments. I got a number of questions that I was able to field well (mainly they were things that I left out of the paper for the sake of time), and people came up to me afterward to shake my hand and congratulate me. The Preeminent Scholar came up to me afterward and said it was a good project and that he was impressed. I asked him if I could contact him in the future for questions and feedback, and he said that would be great.
There was a meeting of the organization which sponsored my panel later in the day, which I went to. They were looking for some graduate students to get involved, so now I will be helping them with editing their semi-annual newsletter (which includes short articles). They know that I don't really have any experience in that, but they said you just need a good pair of eyes. So that will be some good experience for sure. The professor who organized my panel told me that people told her that they enjoyed my paper and that "that MA student gave the best paper of the morning."
Needless to say, I am very pleased with how the conference went. I went to many great sessions and made a few good connections. I also brought a few classmates and they enjoyed their first Kalamazoo experience. And my paper gave me some confidence and assurance that I am on the right track and that hopefully I have the ability to make some impact in this field.
Honestly, I feel like I just conquered Boston all over again. For someone who can run marathons, I don't have the most confidence in my academic work. So, this was certainly what I needed. I feel refreshed, recharged and ready to dig into my research with confidence. It may not be a marathon high, but it was certainly a victory.

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