Tuesday, 1 August 2006


This post might also be considered a missive, for I write from the city of New York, sitting in exhaustion after five days of the 15th International Congress of the New Chaucer Society. It was a long conference, and perhaps too long. I'm staying in Empirestateview's apartment, and you really can see the Empire State Building from the apartment! The heat right now is oppressive, but I'm excited to be here.

I'm still digesting the conference and the papers, but hightlights included Caroline Barron talking about her discovery that Thomas Usk worked as a scribe for the Goldsmith's Guild, and Marion Turner's brilliantly suggestive piece on the Mercer's Petition and the House of Fame. There was also an extremely interesting paper by Catherine Eagleton on astrolabe texts and instrument texts in the 14th and 15th centuries. She is a formidable authority on the subject. Sessions also dealt with the subject of Adam Pynkhurst, does he matter? etc. They were very interesting sessions, except for some of the crazy textual people who seem to think that they have a direct line to the truth and are as ruthless as Microsoft about proprietorial opinions. A most undignified scene was witnessed in response to rather stimulating paper by Steve Partridge, whose very important edition of the glosses in the Canterbury Tales manuscripts is anxiously awaited by many, but alas I have completely forgotten her name nor the nature of her cavil. Come dice Virgilio a Dante: guarda e passa.

One of the great mysteries at the conference this year, like a veiled Greta Garbo or Jackie Onassis glimpsed darting into some exclusive residence for a moment, was the identity of Chaucer hath a blog. David Wallace, in a presidential address I shall leave to more authoritative people to comment upon, took a potshot at the blog, but the whole auditorium chuckled together, clearly showing everyone is reading him. It's a very clever blog. I recommend it.

The little book display was very disappointing. I don't know why it isn't a bit bigger, and the little second hand section was way overpriced. I dithered about buying the Bodley 638 facsimile and should have just bought the bloody thing, but I went back just a bit later and it was gone. Doh! Did pick up a copy of SAC 23 though. I also visited the Strand Bookshop, which reputedly has 18 miles of books. You kind of believe it when you walk in. It overwhelms you. I picked up a copy of Kretzmann, Kenny & Pinborg's Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy for 15 dollars. I think that was very good value.

It was great to see the gang again, like Myra, Mary and Betsy (from way back when in NCS in Glasgow, imagine), and I also caught up with Claudia from Florence, who is here researching. (now she is a textual scholar!). It was a most happy coincidence to see her. And I had dinner with Jeremy, an old friend whom I do not see often enough.

New York is a beautiful city. I was expecting energy, a 24/7 kind of place, but I wasn't expecting to be so aesthetically pleased with the place...if that makes any sense. The architecture is of such high quality. I love the place, and I shall definitely be back.

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