Tuesday, 22 July 2008

New Chaucer Society Demob

Got home late last evening from the New Chaucer Society in Swansea and it was good to sleep in my own bed. I did, however, have to leave before the Presidential address and the responses, and I was very disappointed about that. There were some great papers and I am still digesting them. I've also had a scout around for updates in the blogosphere and have not found many (ITM, and Stephanie Trigg).

Highlights for me were: Simon Horobin's marvellous paper on the scribe of Bodley 619 (a manuscript of the Treatise on the Astrolabe), in which he brought us through the approaches to the manuscript and its scribe, and with the timing of a surgeon, revealed the identity of the scribe and why that might be important. Indeed the quality of the manuscript studies papers was extremely high and it is clear that it is a sparkling and vibrant field of Chaucer studies right now. There was, what one medievalist (Myra Seaman) called during her paper, a sense of a new era of Celebrity Scribe Hunt, jokingly referred to again by Horobin. Christopher Baswell gave a stunning paper on disability in the middle ages. It was a paper during which you actually felt the watershed. Beautiful, rigorous, moving. An extraordinary paper by a remarkable scholar. Some wonderful papers too organized on variants, with a highlight from Dan Wakelin on manuscript corrections and ideas of a correct exemplar. And there was, too, the very enjoyable "Clash of the Titans" between Jill Mann and James Simpson, with Derek Pearsall looming (very) large in the background. [I actually just typed there the "Class of the Titans", which works rather well too]. I must admit that I found his response to James Simpson full of something sad, and the tone was tinged with some kind of resignation. It was very gracious too, some might even say too gracious.

Lots of interesting people there, got to catch up with old friends and made some new ones too. The conference was very well organized and the, shall we say aesthetic challenges of the campus were certainly mitigated by the beautiful beach directly in front of it. Wales is gorgeous. I am now missing the trip to Aberystwyth to see the Hengwrt manuscript, and as I sit now in my study I am jolly sorry I did not go.

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