Dramatis Personae

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In Sad Conference
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


sharpen your pencils?

The Lady has hit the big time over at Daily Kos.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Apologies for non-blogging: I've been marking thousands of student papers. Tedious beyond belief, save for the odd accidental gem. Best so far: 'Regicide was the king of crimes'.

I mentioned reading Stern and Palfrey's Shakespeare in Parts, and some of you were up for that. So: a deadline. How about 1 June? Nice and far away.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Acacia Fierceness Yeti Morons

Which is, of course, an anagram of Renaissance Society of America. Will anyone stand up for our Yeti friends? I don’t think I can. The final evening reception was magnificent, in the sense that there were mountains of food and free-flowing drinks, guzzled down in a room the size of an aircraft hanger. But this, clearly, is where the bulk of the large registration fee goes: and it seems insane that the conference priorities should be a Henrician feast, esp. when lots of people (mainly cash-strapped junior faculty and grad students) have left by Saturday night. But the whole RSA has a sense of operating in another era. Even its web-page feels … well, Renaissancey.

Of course one of the problems is the ridiculously atomized structure of RSA which makes the normally happy conference pursuit of identifying intellectual refrains difficult. It fact it feels like the organizers actively want to discourage connections and broader narratives, in some bizarre bureaucratic equivalent of revisionist history. But I did hear two excellent panels. One on food: Wendy Wall on distillation, and Diane Purkiss on bread. Purkiss made claims for a great and sudden taste shift in the late c16, from darker, richer flavors like venison (which she mapped on to a masculine, land-owning, gentry culture) to a dairy-based palate (which she linked with a feminine, urban, civilizing culture). Momentum really does seem to be building up around the recipe book: in recent weeks I’ve heard it discussed in terms of women’s autobiography, textual transmission, early c17 experimental science, rhetoric, and Shakespearean drama. There was a great session on the sonnet: esp. Ramie Targoff on Thomas Watson’s Hekatompathia (1582), and the sea of notes which framed each sonnet with an artfulness at odds with Sidney’s sequence nine years later. Watson’s sonnet collection, with its display of sources, methods, borrowings, craft, represents an alternative direction the English sonnet could have taken. Bradin Cormack’s use of land law to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 87 – linking the difficulty the sonnet speaker has in possessing his beloved with the impossibility of certain kinds of (non-familial) relationship generating any legal efficacy - was the first genuniely riveting paper I’ve heard in an age. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. But scattered between these high points, there were countless sessions with tiny audiences; many that began with apologies for speakers or chairs who hadn’t made it (presumably because you have to commit so ridiculously far in advance); an incredibly high level of IT breakdowns (at least two sessions I saw had to resort to passing round transparencies). And then, popping up at various points, the phenomenon that is the young man in bowtie. What is that all about?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

RSA - Reception


2d. An occasion of ceremonious receiving; an assemblage of persons for this purpose. Now usu. a party at which guests are formally greeted, esp. after a wedding.
1865 LD. BROUGHTON Recoll. Long Life (1911) VI. ix. 54 On March 5 [1842] I dined at Lord Palmerston's... Lady Palmerston had a reception afterwards.

I'm off to dine with Lord Palmerston: details to follow.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hey! It's RSA!

Bardolph here, embedded in Chicago. Now this is a city, after all that Dallas nonsense.

Too weary to fashion any conference meta-strands right now: jet lag and day-one sociability-exhaustion kicking in. But in the mean time, some early thoughts: (i) scheduling and room allocation seem to have been executed with the savvy efficiency of Guiliani's presidential bid team. So that, for instance, some sessions on the same topic have been plotted against each other, meaning, in one case, a session was canceled; (ii) why are there 16 panels on 'Dress and Identity'? 16! How much identity can we strap on?; (iii) from the throne-like panorama of my enormous bed, I am constantly being offered little invitations to buy the contents of my room. Like the bathrobe? Yours for just $60. Enjoyed the pillows? 50 bucks a pop. I actually do like my pillows -- all nine of them, especially the long barrel-shaped one which I clutch in moments of 3am panic. But I'd think it a little odd to actually purchase the things; (iv) the blank notepad by my phone has the heading 'Your Canvas', which I find infuriating to an almost insane degree.

See you after my pre-dinner nap.