Leeds IMC 2018: some thoughts and reflections


leeds 2The weather was amazing, the programme was jam-packed, there were dragons – the 25th Leeds International Medieval Congress was an amazing event!  As ever, there were far more panels and events than any one person could possibly attend, which can be a bit overwhelming, but as our previous conference tips post advised, take it at your own pace and don’t put pressure on yourself to attend something in every session, and you’ll be right.  Leeds isn’t just about the papers and the roundtables, it’s also about who you bump into in the tea tent and catching up with friends and colleagues over a glass of conference wine.   I caught up with old friends and made new ones every day, as I’m sure the other Cerae committee members did, too!

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Vanessa, Emma, and Stephanie flew the Cerae flag proudly in our panel at 9am on the Tuesday morning, which took place in the suitably grand Nathan Bodington Chamber in the Parkinson building.  It was a great panel that really showcased the quality of scholarship that Cerae journal fosters through open access publishing.

My own Leeds experience was focused on women warriors, castles, and new perspectives on women in romance.  I gave a paper on remembering mothers in romance, and chaired a fantastic panel on queer identities in romance.  Previously, there hasn’t really been a lot of literature activity at Leeds, and, while I love hearing about history, archaeology and the like, I’m a literary scholar, so the increase in literary panels (four of which I helped to organise!) was most welcome.

There were also roundtables and discussion groups, which fostered a great sense of dialogue between established and up-and-coming academics.  I must admit that I flaked on a few of the evening roundtables, going back to my room to recharge before panel dinners and the SMFS banquet, but the ones that I did attend were brilliant.  I also attended an interesting but incredibly emotionally draining discussion on sexual harrasment in academia.  To read more on this, please see Gabby Storey’s summary of this on twitter.  This is an important issue, but by no means the only inequality that we need to tackle in academia.

On a lighter note – dinners!  I went to a wonderful dinner at Hansa’s with the organisers and panelists of our New Perspectives on Women in Romance panels.  We were all PhDs and ECRs working on romance in various ways, and it was just beautiful to get together and see what other women are researching.  The Society of Feminist Medieval Scholarship banquet was another highlight.  I can’t sing the praises of Roberta Magnani, who organised the banquet, too highly – she is like an academic fairy godmother, always championing young researchers and fighting the feminist fight.  You would be forgiven for thinking that the future of academia in the UK is very gloomy, but with women like Roberta there is always hope!

Leeds IMC is huge and I am but one little researcher, so this blog post does not do it justice.  There are things that I am still mulling over and will write about in depth in due course.  For now, please comment with your favourite moment or important issues that you want to see discussed, or contact us to write a blog post yourself.  Fresh perspectives are always welcome.


Conference Survival Tips

It’s nearly conference season! Leeds IMC2018 is less than a month away and my twitter feed and inbox are full of tantalising posts about all the amazing conferences that are happening this summer.  Conferences are a fantastic opportunity to meet people, experience some fantastic papers, and generally remind yourself why you love academia after a hard year at the books, the marking, the teaching, the meetings.  Love them as we do, conferences are pretty intense and can be as exhausting (and expensive) as they are exhilarating.  With that in mind, here are a selection of tips on how to make the most of your conference attendance, keep the budget down, and remember to look after your mental, physical, and emotional well being.


  1. Write your twitter handle on your name badge.  I have made so many academic friends and contacts on twitter, who I have possibly partially recognised at conferences but been unsure about approaching.  A trend has started at the IMC and other events for writing your twitter handle on your name badge so that twitter friends can become IRL friends with ease.
  2. Say hello.  Dr. Sara Uckelman points out that big conferences can be lonely places.  If you see someone looking a little lost or awkward, ask them what session they have just been in.  Sara also says that you are likely to be that person at some point, and not to worry about it, as we’ve all been there.

Getting the most out of papers

  1. Sticky tabs.  I filled a whole notebook at the IMC last year.  Everything that I wrote was absolutely vital.  And I haven’t looked at it once since.  This year, I’m planning to take a pack of sticky tabs with me, so that I can signpost what is important and why for when I get back to my desk at home and open that thesis chapter.  This could get messy, but it’s definitely going to be colourful!
  2. Share the workload.  Each time slot at the IMC has about 50 sessions in it.  How can you possibly get the most of your time without Hermione’s time whizzy thing?  Even at a conference with only two parallel sessions, you could miss out on something relevant.  While it might be nice to sit with a conference buddy, consider splitting up, attending different sessions, and comparing notes afterwards.
  3. Plan your schedule.  Dr. Marjorie Harrington recommends planning out the sessions that you want to attend in a grid calendar and colour coding them by priority.  Don’t feel guilty if you don’t get to everything – focus on your priority sessions.

Eating and drinking

  1. Load up at breakfast!  Eating can be expensive when you’re away from home, and lunch is only sometimes provided at conferences.  If breakfast is included in your accommodation costs, eat well to get you through until lunch.  Maybe even sneak a banana or cereal bar into your pocket for an emergency snack.  Ssh!
  2. Drink water.  Writing those two words has just reminded me to text my little brother, as my response to his every complaint seems to be “drink more water!”  It’s my go-to solution for a reason, and staying hydrated at conferences is important.  You’ll stay more focused and possibly not suffer the after effects of the free wine as badly.  Plus, if you invest in a quirky water bottle, you might get some compliments and strike up some interesting conversations.
  3. Have a stash.  Dr. Alicia Spencer-Hall recommends having a stash of high-energy foods in your room and in your bag, such as granola bars.  “Conferences devour energy, you will likely need to supplement your normal intake to stay the course.”  Feed your brain, my lovelies!

Travel and accommodation

  1. Pack accordingly.  Alicia also reminds us that conferences are not normal life, and that you should pack things that you wouldn’t normally have in your bag but will make conference life a lot easier – business cards, sunscreen, hand fan, many pens, water bottle, anti-chafe stick, many pens…
  2. Carpool or book advance tickets.  Telling PhDs and ECRs how to keep the cost down is like teaching your grandma to suck eggs, right? (Whose grandma ever actually sucked eggs?)  But, here it is anyway – reach out at uni or on twitter and see if anyone is driving to the conference, and ask if they would like to split the cost.  Check thetrainline.com for cheaper advance tickets, or try the fare-splitting trick that turns your journey into two or three journeys on paper, but without you having to change trains, at a fraction of the cost (is this myth – I’ve heard tell but never worked out how to do it?)
  3. Book appropriate accommodation.  Okay, you’re on a budget, but don’t be checking in to an airbnb shared with five strangers and a goat (unless that’s your thing).  We all have our own idea of what is roughing it, but it’s essential that you feel safe and comfortable in your bed at night and while you’re taking a shower.  If you don’t feel comfortable with a shared bathroom, pay the extra to book a private one and cut back in other ways.  If you’re booking accommodation without guidance from the conference organisers, check the location and make sure you know how to get to the venue.

Well being

  1. Don’t try to do everything!  Conferences are both time and money expensive, and you will put pressure on yourself to do everything that you possibly can – attend every session, all the keynotes and roundtables, all the drinks receptions…  Dr. Uckelman and Dr. S.C. Kaplan both recommend giving yourself some downtime – skip a session, sit in the sunshine, catch up with a friend, sleep!  You don’t have to be in conference mode the whole time, and you’ll probably get more from the sessions that you do go to if you take a break.
  2. Bring something to keep you focused.  Many people pay attention better if they have something to do with their hands.  Dr. Kaplan recommends bringing something to do with your hands, such as crochet, to help keep you focused.  You will know best what this might be, whether you’re a doodler or a crafter.
  3. Enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it.

Leeds IMC 2018


Are you excited?  We’re excited!  We’ll be up bright and early on Tuesday morning for the 9am session in the Parkinson building (Nathan Bodington Chamber – fancy!).  Join our esteemed editor, Vanessa Wright, and our four speakers – Philippa Byrne, Stephanie Hathaway, Celeste Andrews, and Sean Tandy – for some fantastic insights into Memories of Empire.

Cerae at Leeds IMC 2018!

Twitter was absolutely buzzing last week with excited medievalists announcing that their panel had been accepted for the International Medieval Congress in Leeds in July 2018.  I have already triple booked myself in some time slots with all the fantastic papers and panels that friends and colleagues have been tweeting.  And now we are excited to announce that Cerae has it’s very own panel, too!  Join us bright and early on the Tuesday morning for four fantastic papers on Memory and Empire, all specifically chosen to complement and enhance Volume 5’s thematic strand Representations and Recollections of Empire.  We’re so in sync, Cerae and the IMC – memory-recollections, recollections-memory.

Cerae’s panel discusses the ways in which individuals or collectives used, or were influenced by, recollections and remnants of the Roman Empire.  Medieval ideas about education and civic duty were heavily influenced by Roman authors, for example, while Roman ruins were continuously used in Medieval buildings. Medieval theologians constantly grappled with the legacy of their ancient pagan forebears, while poets sought to establish authority and prestige by placing themselves in the classical tradition through emulation and imitation. In Medieval memories and imaginations, the Roman Empire served as not only a past point of reference, but as an aspirational destination.

We have four diverse but beautifully complementary papers.  Philippa Byrne’s paper will focus on rhetoric and political thought in Sallust, while Stephanie Hathaway explores magic and pagan thought in the French Reine Sebile texts.  Celeste Andrews will treat us to a paper on the remembrance of Rome in medieval Welsh texts.  Sean Tandy will close the panel with a paper on authorship and authority in mis-attributed late antique texts.

In all our excitement, we’ve decided also to extend the deadline for thematic submissions for Volume 5.  If this panel has got you all fired up about Representations and Recollections of Empire, you now have until the end of December to send us a submission.

CFP Leeds IMC 2018 Panel ‘Memories of Empire’



‘Memories of Empire’


Cerae is sourcing submissions to participate in a panel focused on ‘Memories of Empire’ for the IMC Conference at the University of Leeds (2-5 July, 2018). The focus of our panel is on the ways in which individuals or collectives used, or were influenced by, recollections and remnants of the Roman Empire.

Medieval ideas about education and civic duty were heavily influenced by Roman authors, for example, while Roman ruins were continuously used in Medieval buildings. Medieval theologians constantly grappled with the legacy of their ancient pagan forebears, while poets and playwrights sought to establish authority and prestige by placing themselves in the classical tradition through emulation and imitation. In Medieval memories and imaginations, the Roman Empire served as not only a past point of reference, but as an aspirational destination. In our panel, we would like to explore the relationship between memory, imagination and destiny. Submissions might focus on – but are not limited to:

  • studies in the visual, literary and material culture of the Carolingian empire
  • the birth of Renaissance humanism with its focus on classical notions of civic duty
  • religious appropriations of the imperial claim to political supremacy
  • medieval romance and epic as genres innovating on classical styles and themes
  • the imperialist legacy in early colonial propaganda

Cerae is aiming to gather together panellists with varied disciplinary approaches, and submissions from scholars working in art history, literature, politics, intellectual history, social studies and beyond are encouraged.

Submissions by participants willing to write up their paper as an article for review and publication in 2018 as part of Cerae Volume 5 (of the same theme) will be prioritised. We can offer bursaries of $100 towards travel costs for postgraduates and ECRs travelling from Australia and New Zealand.


‘Economics of Poetry’ Conference: Rome, April 28-30 2016  

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Used with permission from the ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference organisers.

Tara Auty reflects on the recent ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference at the American University at Rome.

Held on the grounds of the American University at Rome (AUR), from April 28-30 2016, the ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference was an academic gathering to discuss and advance the study of ‘efficient techniques of producing neo-Latin verse.’ Organised by Paul Gwynne of the AUR and Bernhard Schirg of the Freie Universität Berlin, and funded jointly by those institutions, this conference brought international scholars together to share their research into the practices of efficiency that were intrinsic to the production of Latin poetry in the early modern period. This approach ‘analyses the techniques authors employed and developed to reduce the effort of poetic composition, streamline its production, and facilitate its presentation when time was a crucial factor for success.’ What follows is a brief summary of some of the insights that came to light over the course of seventeen varied and dynamic presentations that were particular helpful or novel to me, but the full listing of the abstracts can be found here.

Susanna de Beer launched the conference with her keynote presentation, Reveal, Reuse, Recycle! How Digital Tools Can Help Detect Efficiency in Giannantonio’s Campano’s (1429-1477) Poetry. Dr. de Beer’s paper questioned the very paradigm by which neo-Latin poetry has thus far been judged, and invited the attendees to consider repetition and self-referencing within the corpora of early modern Latin poets not as ‘laziness’ or ‘insincerity,’ but instead as well-developed strategies to meet the demands of the patronage system. One of the major contributions that the concept of ‘economics of poetry’ is making to the field of neo-Latin criticism is that it is encouraging scholars to reassess intratextuality (i.e., self-repetition and self-allusion), which has traditionally been devalued in contrast with intertextuality (i.e., repetitions from and allusions to other authors’ works, usually already well-regarded and known) as a viable and significant practice in literary production.

In a period where competition for patronage could be fierce, and an author’s livelihood depended on their ability to adapt, the capacity to reuse pre-fabricated material was a great benefit and was not necessarily viewed as a lack of originality. Paul Gwynne’s paper, The Economics of Eulogy: Johannes Michael Nagonius (c. 1450-c.1510), highlighted the ways in which Nagonius continuously revised his poetry to reflect developing political situations, with particular reference to a funeral song derived from an original pseudo-Ovidian source that he repeatedly adapted to mourn different significant personages. In Spamming the Council of Milan: Pietro Lazzaroni (c.1420-c1497) Spreading His Poems to Lombardian Patricians, Bernhard Schirg pointed out that these instances of self-repetition can be viewed as variations on a basic template, and allowed the extremely prolific Lazzaroni to engage in ‘cold-calling’ potential patrons by show-casing the kind of work he was capable of adapting to them specifically.

As well as reusing existing models within a given genre, authors also engaged widely in intertextual borrowing across genres and across languages. Elena Dahlberg’s presentation, String Your Lyre Promptly! Magnus Rönnow’s (1665?-1735) Latin Poetry from the Great Northern War, foregrounded the variety of sources used by the Swede neo-Latin poet in his coverage of contemporary military events. Detailed textual comparison showed that Rönnow used printed news sources alongside literary accounts of the conflict, so that his own poetry ‘blurred the boundaries between truth and fiction.’ Authors using these contemporaneous sources had to find linguistic strategies to render their material into neo-Latin, and these strategies in themselves can be viewed as part and parcel of the practice of ‘economics of poetry,’ wherein textual sources are the bare resources of poetic production, subject to the labour of the author to create a viable end-product.

Repetition in and of itself does not necessarily equate to less literary labour, and the genre of the Cento further highlights this complexity. The opening keynote presentation by Dr. de Beer invited attendees to question whether ‘repetition can be both efficient and meaningful,’ and in her paper, Riuso ed Economia Nella Pratica della Poesia ‘Centonaria,’ Maria Teresa Galli showed that repetition, far from being a ‘shortcut,’ in fact adds layers of meaning and can prove to be quite an inefficient practice. Assembled entirely from the fragmented lines of another author’s work, laid out in a new order, Cento poems were acts of ‘literary acrobatics,’ and the writing of them was an exercise undertaken by the learned to showcase their knowledge of classical works and to demonstrate the author’s ability to rework and remould well-known masterpieces. The finished product is a multi-layered puzzle, which simultaneously recalls the original stories from which they have been extracted while piecing together a new story, a feat made all the more impressive by the appearance of effortlessness.

This semblance of effortlessness was also a key feature in the phenomenon of ‘fast composition,’ as discussed by Marc Laureys in The Aesthetics of Mourning: Techniques of Composition in Neo-Latin Funeral Poetry from Germany and the Low Countries (16th and 17th Centuries). Speedy writing had long been associated with improvisation and extemporising, and diametrically opposed to polished sophistry. In this model, the latter was associated with guile and superficiality, while the former was authentic, candid and unpolished. Statius’ Silvae provided the key classical exemplar for this idea of ‘spontaneous’ writing, as Professor Laurey illustrated, and was one of the main literary precedents for early modern authors writing Latin funeral poems (who, naturally, had certain time-pressures on their compositions). Fast, unpolished writing is motivated by intense emotion in the Statian model, and the claims to extraordinary speed embedded in these poems were thus part and parcel of the ‘aesthetics of mourning’ characteristic of this genre.

In the final panel of the conference, Elizabeth Sandis similarly addressed the strategies employed by William Gager (1555-1622) to produce a high-quality piece of work in a very limited time-frame in Playing Virgil on Short Notice. Following the orders of the Chancellor of Oxford University to stage an original performance for a Polish dignitary visiting England in 1538, Gager wrote the 1,300 verse Dido in approximately three weeks. This new composition, partly based on his ‘youthful adaptations of Virgil’s Aeneid,’ was developed to serve a propagandistic purpose and highlight the beneficent generosity of Queen Elizabeth I to the foreign ambassador. One of the most salient points made by Dr. Sandis in this presentation was that the success of this performance relied on a shared knowledge of the story of Dido: by choosing an iconic text as a base model, Gager efficiently creates meaning by drawing on the audience’s assumed collective memory of the original story.

The question of how to detect efficient techniques of poetic production was one that was addressed to varying degrees by some of the papers, but the most practical guidance was given by Dr. de Beer in her keynote speech. Various digital tools have emerged, and are continuously emerging, that allow scholars to not only access Latin texts in their entirety, but also to quickly detect intratextual and intertextual relationships by enabling searches for individual words, phrases and motifs. Two examples are ‘Musisque Deoque’ and Dr. de Beer’s own project, ‘Mapping Visions of Rome.’

This is no doubt only the beginning of what is already proving to be an extremely fruitful and innovative movement to reassess particular features of neo-Latin poetry, and its usefulness in literary criticism and history will surely become evident to scholars working on material in other languages, genres and periods. Under the editorial guidance of Paul Gwynne and Bernhard Schirg, the findings of this conference will be further developed into a collection to be published by Peter Lang in late 2016/early 2017.This will be the largest contribution thus far to the growing body of ‘economics of poetry’ material already published:

Report on the ANZAMEMS 2015 Conference

Conferences can pass in a blur even though they also involve periods of sustained concentration while listening to papers in sessions. So it was for me at ANZAMEMS 2015 at the University of Queensland, which was an experience crammed into one day, the Friday of the conference, the day I delivered my paper and the only day I could attend. That still comprised three lots of sessions, each with three papers, which is a lot of listening.

I’ve attended each ANZAMEMS since 2008 (which actually still makes me a newcomer in terms of the long history of many Australasian scholars with ANZAMEMS and its predecessor organisations) and while it’s good to see the conferences never get any smaller, it’s also interesting to see the themes and ideas get broader. To an extent this growth testifies to the broadening in both medieval and early modern studies, and the way both fields have fruitfully harnessed the methodologies and ideas from other disciplines. For example the final session I attended on Friday comprised papers by Aidan Norrie, Helen Young and Douglas Eacersall on (respectively) portrayals of the Virgin Queen (Elizabeth I) in film, crowd sourcing multimedia productions with medieval settings, and the revival of medieval style martial arts in Australia. Yes, Australia, not normally a setting or subject to be expected in even an Australasian medieval and early modern conference. That is not to say there is any type of artificial division between ‘traditional’ medieval and early modern studies and more contemporary approaches to subject matter, but given how extensively or even exhaustingly researched many aspects of early modern history are (the reformation for example) it seems timely and necessary for other questions and other approaches to develop.

Another aspect of this conference was that even though there are discernible and exciting developments in medieval and early modern studies, the background news that UWA is planning a reduction in majors, including early modern studies. In doing so it joins a trend notable at other ‘sandstones’ but other universities as well in diminishing the space and weight given to particular fields, including the early modern. The sadness is that each successive ANZAMEMS takes place where the enthusiasm of Australasian academics and postgraduate students remains undiminished but where another program or major in European studies may have disappeared. By the next conference what will the attrition be? What momentum can be built at each hosting institution about this subject matter?

Marcus Harmes (University of Southern Queensland)