Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kalamazoo 2013 - 2/4


A morning session featured a discussion of relations between the French and the papacy in the 11th century, and a presentation about Bonifatius (St Boniface, an Anglo-Saxon who converted many Germans, and founded monasteries and helped organize the German church in the early 8th c.). This scholar seemed knowledgeable about every single contemporary clerical comment written down about the indigenous heathens, worshipers of Odin/Wotan.

I asked if one could identify some kind of turning point following the Reform Movement after the Concordat of 1122 when the popes, having deposed the German emperors from leadership of the church, decided to mix it up with French. There clearly are plenty of good reasons why the popes would want to, but what exactly triggered their interventions in French affairs?

Then I asked what the condition and organization of the German church was at the time of Boniface and if anyone had found out when the first German monastery was founded, following Clovis’ conversion  ca. 500. (They used not to call them the Dark Ages for nothing.) As I  anticipated, the answer in both cases was no, but this is the kind of question one can profitably ask at Kalamazoo, just to confirm one’s own perceptions while ignoring the taint of public humiliation over one’s putative ignorance.

In the afternoon I heard Richard Matthew Pollard, Univ British Columbia: “Identifying the Men behind the Popes in Early Medieval Rome: An Exercise in Methodology,” which I found really brilliant. I can’t recapitulate the argument here, but the idea is roughly that through analysis of Latin prose rhythms we can determine (for example) which letters Pope Gregory I. wrote himself, and which he assigned to his chancery, and this is turn may inform us about which matters he held most important.

Having come to medieval studies only six years ago after a long career teaching English and German, I have lacked any real opportunity for manuscript studies, and I am full of envy for Richard’s experience and expertise. I spoke with him afterwards, and I was surprised that he remembered me from our brief conversation at Kazoo in 2009, when he was still a doctoral student at Cambridge with Rosamond McKitterick, the great genetrix of modern Carolingian studies. Richard totally made my day when he mentioned that he had used my Walafrid Strabo translations in a class he taught.

An evening session devoted to Walter Gofford’s one-hour contemplation of Charlemagne’s conscription policies conducted me also into the physical presence of early medieval military historians Bernie Bachrach and Kelly DeVries, hitherto known to me only from the printed page.
Dr Gofford impressed me as more than a little snarky, which I suppose at his advanced age is understandable. He spent a full five minutes castigating Timothy Reuter for writing that Charlemagne’s armies were conscripted from “magnates and their followings,” when (if I understood correctly) Reuter might have more accurately written “magnates and allodial landowners,” so as to include the participation of the liberi (freemen).

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