The 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!
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.