Thursday, May 11, 2006

Post-Kzoo Post Follow-Up

So many interesting comments and commentary on Kalamazoo this year. A couple of follow-up answers/comments from me:

"Wormtalk and Slugspeak" is most definitely not a Tolkien reference (I'm not entirely one-dimensional and fixated, you know). It is a reference to The Far Side and an inside joke shared with Prof. Beth Manolescu (who as an undergraduate was known as "Fripp."): We were talking about one of Carnegie Mellon's idiotically titled English core courses ("idiotic" because the titles--"Discourse and Historical Change," "Rhetoric and Social Interaction," gave no information about what was actually in the course), and I said that I wrote a final paper whose title was something like "Thematizing Signifiers of Lack in Six Modern Novelists: Slippage in the Hegemonic Discourse". Fripp paused, took a sip of her beer, and said "I did mine on The Far Side." Another pause. "I got an A." There was a Far Side that made reference to "Wormtalk and Slugspeak: My Life Among the Invertebrates" by some professor, and because I was always working on one novel or another during undergrad, I started to say that I was writing "Wormtalk and Slugspeak."

Tom Shippey's paper was about the search for a Plattsdeutsch epic and Karl Mullenhoff's idea that Beowulf or Kudrun might very well be that epic. As is characteristic, Tom made the history of Beowulf scholarship funny, fascinating and important. He made the Schlesweig/Holstein conflict as understandable as it can be, and was, of course, hugely entertaining.

I wish I'd been at the blogger meet-up, but I didn't arrive in Kalamazoo until nearly 9 p.m. I felt that it was important not to impose on my long-suffering spouse too much, so I took a flight that allowed me to get the kids up and off to school before I had to leave for the airport.

That's great news about Paul Acker and PMLA. I'm sure it will be an excellent article. His Revising Oral Theory is truly excellent (it was incredibly useful to me in understanding where Oral Traditional Theory is right now).

"History Geek," I would never 'out' you (and given our conversation at the airport, it's probably a very good idea for you to be pseudonymous at this stage). I really enjoyed our conversation as well. As I said, for the first time ever at Kalamazoo, there wasn't a single person that I talked to whom I didn't enjoy talking to.

And just to follow up on what I meant by those misanthropic reflections: at previous Kalamazoo's I'd always made an effort to go say hello to, say, former committee member or person who was at my defense or seminar teacher from way back. These people don't like me. I don't like them. Yet we would pretend to be pleased to run into each other and then make a few minutes of small talk. This year I didn't bother. It was great. But, I also recognize that what I'm complaining about is basic human interaction and that by avoiding it and only talking to people I like, I'm one step closer to living in the heavily fortified cabin in the Montana wilderness that is at the bottom of at least one slipperly slope...


History Geek said...

I didn't think you would 'out' me, so to speak. I was mostly referring to giving you a blog to go with the face.

Tiruncula said...

Thanks for the Shippey summary. I had the privilege of hosting him at my small college a while ago and can picture just how entertaining he was.

On the creeping misanthropy: a friend of mine usually goes directly from Kalamazoo to a monastic retreat for several days. I think he's got the right idea; if my academic schedule allowed, I'd seriously consider doing the same thing.