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 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.

Aphra Behn: cultural translator and editorial intermediary

Here Dr. Jocelyn Hargrave of Monash University shares with us a fascinating insight into the connections between academia and publishing, and how working in both fields has informed her research.  Her article “Aphra Behn: Cultural Translator and Editorial Intermediary” has just been published in Volume 4 of Cerae Journal and can be found here.

Editing, specifically, and making books, more broadly, have been mainstays in my professional life since the late 1990s—they have shaped the person I have become and continue to be. Once I graduated with Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Sydney in 1997, I obtained an entry-level position at an educational publisher; within two years, I successfully applied for my first editorial position. I have continued to edit since then, either in-house or on a freelance basis, working principally on primary and secondary textbooks. It is an occupation that I never tire of, one that is truly humbling and rewarding.

I decided to return to academia in 2008 to complete a Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne. My professional passion shifted effortlessly with me: my thesis investigated how digital technology had been impacting to date on the Australian educational publishing industry. The research process—from devising my research questions to building knowledge, applying methodology and disseminating my results and conclusions—was intoxicating; the requisite detail of such work appeared to mirror editorial practice. I graduated in 2012 and immediately started considering my next research journey: my doctorate—a life goal since my twenties.

During a late-night journey from Melbourne to Sydney, puttering in my husband’s 1969 Austin, I experienced a genuine light-bulb moment: to combine research and the passion for my craft to investigate the evolution and development of editing. For this, it was necessary to relinquish twenty-first-century Australia and dedicate myself to early-modern England. Completed in the Literary and Cultural Studies Program at Monash University from 2013 to 2016, my doctoral thesis, ‘Style Matters: The Influence of Editorial Style on the Publishing of English’, had two objectives. The first was to complete a historical study of the evolution of editorial style and its progress towards standardisation through an examination of early-modern style guides (known as printers’ grammars at that time), such as Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683) and John Smith’s The Printer’s Grammar (1755). Style guides provide rules to ensure editorial consistency both within and across all titles produced by a publishing company. They outline the rules governing, for example, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalisation and italicisation; explain the parts of a book, their typography and typesetting; and feature proof-correction symbols to mark on page proofs to indicate authorial and editorial corrections to be incorporated by typesetters. The second objective was to explore how multiple stakeholders—specifically authors, editors and printers—either directly implemented, or uniquely interpreted and adapted, the guidelines of contemporary style guides as part of their inherently human editorial practice. One of the case studies in my thesis related to Aphra Behn.

To understand Behn’s editorial practice, I completed a close examination of her romantic novella Agnes de Castro: or, The Force of Generous Love (1688), which was originally written by Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac and entitled Agnès de Castro, Nouvelle Portugaise (1688). This study also entailed a comparative analysis with the contemporary style guide, Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises.

Metaphor and Meaning

With the publication of volume 4, ‘Influence and Appropriation’, we’ve asked our fantastic contributors to write a blog post about their work.  First up is Jenny Smith, whose paper explores the influential power of metaphor in early modern literature.  Her article can be found here: Necessary Abuse: the Mirror as Metaphor in the Sixteenth Century

Over to Jenny:

My interest in metaphor is part of a long interest in language as an organisational principle of thought. Cerae’s call for papers on the theme of ‘Influence and Appropriation’ was an exhilarating opportunity to explore how metaphor influences thought and how metaphors accumulate, or appropriate, meaning. A case study is the metaphor of the mirror in sixteenth-century counsel, that is, the literature of advice.

Metaphor was one of the most important tropes in classical and early modern rhetoric. Just as it is in 20th– and 21st-century linguistics and philosophy of language, throughout its history metaphor in particular was considered not just a literary ornament but a fundamental principle of how humans conceive of the world. I wanted to historicize that. What was it, why was so much ink expended on it, and how did the readers and writers of those textbooks use metaphor in their non-rhetoric-textbook writing?

Elizabethan sources showed metaphor working in a cumulative way, allowing people to connect dissimilar concepts to perceive a coherent whole:

‘Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

But … all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy’s images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.’

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.I.18-27)

Most uses of the mirror in counsel either described the mind as a mirror, reflecting the counsel it received, or they described counsel itself as a mirror. Counsel could therefore have all the characteristics of a mirror: distorting, flattering to vanity, true and crystal clear, obscure and requiring painstaking interpretation, part of a chain of being, showing a positive or negative example for the viewer. As Spenser reminded Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene, counsel could be

‘nought but forgerie,

Fashion’d to please the eies of them, that pas,

Which see not perfect things but in a glas:

Yet is that glasse so gay that it can blynd

The wisest sight…’

(Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book VI, Proem, stanza 5, lines 3-7)

The mirror of counsel, like the mirror of Narcissus, could deceive a mind conditioned, as the Biblical mirror of St Paul had conditioned people, to ‘see not perfect things but in a glass’.

Mirrors of counsel could also function within the idea of a mirror as history, as in the Mirror for Magistrates, a text that reflects several ways of conceiving of history. The first, suppressed, edition was titled a ‘Memorial’, but from 1559 the title of ‘Mirror’ was so popular and appropriated so many times for other texts that the metaphor accumulated yet more layers of meaning.

The pedagogical practice of imitatio, that is the reading and imitating of many different authors as taught by Erasmus and other influential figures, was central to the persistence of all these layers of meaning shaping the Elizabethan world.

The sources were also immensely enjoyable to read. Elizabeth I has a reputation for being a crafty, canny and well-read writer; George Gascoigne and Stephen Gosson were delightful new discoveries who seemed to be no less so. My title is taken from Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse, a polemic against plays (by a former playwright), and from the rhetorical trope of catachresis, Latinized to abusio. Catachresis, as Puttenham said, is what happens when a metaphor seems too far-fetched, too awkward, too obscure. The tension between resemblance and difference in the two terms of a metaphor have influenced metaphor theory since Aristotle, and this tension fascinates me too. The mirror shows both resemblance and difference: when Paul described human understanding as seeing ‘through a glass darkly’, it was a metaphor for how metaphor works in cognition.

So forms of language do persist in interesting ways – not just metaphors but also rhythms and vocabulary. Reading Mark Turner, who moved cognitive linguistics into the field of literary criticism, I saw a passage whose balance of phrases is so Ciceronian, and the opening sentence ‘There is a system to imagination’ so reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that it struck me as a proof of how the language of predecessors becomes an organising principle for the language, and perhaps the thought, of later writers. I don’t know whether Turner does this deliberately, but if he did he was doing imitatio in the best sixteenth-century style; Erasmus would have approved. The passage therefore seemed a case in point for my argument, and an appropriate conclusion.

I am grateful to Cerae’s anonymous reviewers, to the audience at RSA16, and to the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash and the Medieval and Early Modern Cohort at the University of Melbourne, for helpful comment on different aspects. The article therefore reflects the pleasures and wisdoms of scholarship and scholarly counsel.

Introducing… the social media editor

This post is the first in a series in which the academics behind Cerae will introduce themselves and their research, to give a flavour of the diverse people and interests contributing to the running of a burgeoning academic journal.

I’m Kirsty and I’m the social media editor for Cerae, so I manage this blog and our facebook and twitter pages.  I’m a PhD student at the University of Southampton in the UK, where my research focuses on motherhood, space, and building in thirteenth and fourteenth century French and English romances.  At the moment, I’m working on a chapter about birthing rooms, production of space, and female agency.  This means looking at my literary sources from some interesting perspectives, such as Doreen Massey and Henri LeFebvre’s theories of social production of space.  Also, some pretty cool images of medieval birthing rooms, with all the men on the outside unable to look in.

I’m also a mother myself, so in any given day, I can be translating Old French texts, potty training my son, getting to grips with Foucault, cooking dinners that will be instantly rejected, searching medieval databases, and reading phonics with my daughter.  It’s an interesting balance.  I study part-time, partly because I can’t afford to put my children into childcare full-time and partly because the PhD gives me the space to be around while they are little.  I have jaw-dropping respect for mothers who work or study full-time with small children, though I hope to join their ranks once I’ve completed my thesis and am looking for that elusive academic job.

I enjoy contributing to the running of Cerae, as I think that open access publishing is incredibly important in the current academic climate.  The academics that I respect the most are the ones who work towards creating an inclusive, positive, kind scholarly community, whose research is incisive and important to society and humankind.  I like to think that Cerae, as an open access journal founded and run by PhDs and ECRs, is a small part of the good in academia.

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.

Everything you ever wanted to know about representations and recollections of empire

But we haven’t published it yet!  That’s where you come in.  The deadline is tomorrow, but we know that you’ve been working on your paper and are just waiting until the very last minute to press send – and please do!  We really want to read it, and publish it, and share it with the world.  Details can be found here: Call for papers!

Cerae is a peer-reviewed, open access academic journal, based in Australia but with committee members and contributors throughout the world (I, personally, live in Southampton, UK, which is currently 3 degrees celsius and feels about as far from the balmy beaches of Australia as possible).  We are volunteers, but work with the professionalism and rigour that you would expect from a top flight academic journal.  We are committed to sharing high quality research in all medieval and early modern subject areas, and strongly believe in the power of open access publishing and digital humanities to do that.  The medieval and early modern online community is strong (twitter is my daily saviour!), which some might find ironic, given that we study the past, but it is actually incredibly apt, as those periods were so innovative in their thinking and methods of sharing knowledge.  Let’s carry on the tradition!