University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
President: Franklin J. Pegues, Ohio
Midwest Medieval Conference
Friday, October 5, 1973
Informal gathering at Schlitz' Brown Bottle,
Saturday, October 6, 1973
Presiding: J. A. Raftis, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
William F. Halloran, Dean of the College of Letters and
Luncheon and Business Meeting.
Presiding: Franklin J. Pegues, Ohio State University
Presiding: Marcia L. Colish, Oberlin College
Greene Museum open to conferees. The Bolles-Roger
7:30 Dinner. Wisconsin Room West.
Presiding: Franklin J. Pegues, Ohio State University
Forgery and Plagiarism in the Middle Ages
Mid-Year Update Letter
June 11, 1973
It is a pleasure to announce that the eleventh annual meeting of the Midwest Medieval Conference will be held at the university of Wisconsin in Milwaukee on Saturday, October 6, 1973. We have always experienced fine hospitality at our host institutions, but the member of this year's Local Arrangements Committee, James Brundage and John McGovern, have outdone themselves in arranging a reception for members of the conference at the "Schlitz Brown Bottle", Joseph Schlitz Brewery, on Friday evening, October 5, from 7:30 to 11 P.M.
John B. Henneman and his Program Committee, composed of J. A. Raftis and Marcia Colish, have worked hard to put together a very promising and attractive program of which a copy is enclosed.
At the same time, the Local Arrangements Committee deeply regrets that the date of the conference conflicts with the Jewish Holy Days. It became clear only after most of the other decisions had been made that October 6 was the only Saturday in the autumn on which necessary facilities at the university would be available to our group.
In the late summer you will receive a formal invitation and details about transportation facilities, places to stay, registration and meals. Medievalists and interested persons who are not presently on the mailing list or who have changed addresses, should write to the secretary, Richard Kay, Department of History, University of Kansas, or to Professor McGovern in Milwaukee. I look forward to seeing you in Milwaukee for an enjoyable meeting as our group begins the second decade of its activities.
Frankilin J. Pegues,
The minutes of this organization have in the past lacked the scientific rigor for which the Middle Ages are famous. Previously your scribe has reported to you on the crude basis of his gross, merely personal observations, quite without the benefit of the subtle science of "mathematics," which is the most polite medieval term for the scientific study of the stars, otherwise known as astrology.
Most authorities agree that this cosmic science was perfected by that prince of secretaries, Thoth, the Thrice-great Hermes, and so, following in his demonic footsteps, I have despoiled the Egyptians--id est, the Arabs-- of this great instrument, the better to place our annual conference or rather constellation, in its fuller and more significant context, namely the entire cosmos.
Hence this report shall apprize you of the pressures which the stars exerted on our congress. I shall not boast of the superiority of this scientific approach; instead I shall let you judge for yourselves whether or not astrology provides a rational framework for the description of human events, a model at least as good as the ones historians presently borrow from the behavioral sciences.
To begin with, know that we convened on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, 43º 15' N. Lat., 87º 55' W. Long. Know further that the first event was scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 5, 1973, and the last event just twenty-four hours later. During those twenty-four hours, the sun was in the thirteenth degree of the sign Libra, and both the sun and its attendant sign made one full revolution around the earth. This obvious fact (already known from your Sphere of Sacrobosco) provides the basis for the scientific study of conferences, otherwise known as astrosyndodography. The method is simple. First we identify the conference program with the sun itself. And this is proper, because it is the program that gives to the conference its light, and its life, and its time, just as mankind receives the same gifts from the physical sun of the heavens. The second step in our method is to divide the sun's daily path into twelve equal parts, called the twelve houses through which the sun passes. Accordingly during the daytime the sun of our program will pass through the six day houses that are visible above the horizon, moving roughly at the rate of one house every two hours, beginning at sunrise, which on October 6 was 6:01 a.m., and ending at sunset almost twelve hours later, namely at 5:30 p.m. Then after sunset the sun passes through its six night houses, which by definition are below the local horizon, in this case that of Milwaukee. Each of these twelve solar domiciles possesses its own special significance, so that every day can be divided into twelve phases that closely resemble the twelve phases of the year, which the signs of the zodiac govern.
For example, the program in Milwaukee opened after sunset with the entry: "7:30-11:00 p.m. Informal gathering at Schlitz' Brown Bottle." The sun was at this time from 8 to 10 p.m., in the fifth house, which is called "the house of children (filii)" and this predisposes to amusement and play and other childlike activities. As the evening wore on, the sun moved into the fourth house at about 10 p.m., and as this house signifies fatherhood and home life, the party accordingly drifted back to various rooms at the Marc Plaza Hotel, which was indeed our temporary home.
At midnight the sun entered the house f brotherhood, and of lower mind, which explains a few late parties that broke up about 2 a.m. as the sun passed into the second house, brings "the end of youth," though the Greeks called it "the gateway to hell (haidou pyle)." Most of us slept though this last house of the night, only to awake as the sun rose over the eastern horizon of Lake Michigan and emerged into the twelfth house, the house of sorrows, where we pay our debts of destiny in the first hours of the morning after. The Greeks, rising at this ungodly hour, hungover no doubt on retsina, just called this house "kaka daimon."
The next house (XI) properly contains breakfast and registration, for it is called "the house of friends" and runs from 8 to 10 a.m. By midmorning the sun of our program had fully risen and entered the tenth house, which Alkabisi, in his Introduction to Astrology, says: "is the house of the king and of work and of the sublime, where masters excel through their command of memory and of language." A fine house, in short, for making reputations and furthering careers. Appropriately, at this point, the program began in earnest, with a humanistic dean who read us a poem by Auden and warned us solemnly to beware the artificial memory of computers. The dean was officially thanked for his concern by the chairman of the morning session, Professor Raftis, who then proceeded to open the meeting to a flood of statistics unprecedented in the annals of our conference. It began with "Some Oxford Evidence" on "The Mobility of Skilled Labor in Late Medieval England" uncovered by Carl Hammer of Toronto. Next John Freed of Illinois State argued that social origins of the German friars in the thirteenth century were distinctly middle class. Finally John Munro, also of Toronto, presented us with twenty-two mimeographed pages of tables and an abstract of his thesis on "The Coming of Spanish Wools to the Low Countries: An Aspect of Industrial Change in the Fifteenth Century."
By this time the sun had reached the meridian of Milwaukee and our program culminated in the luncheon and business meeting . From noon until 2 p.m. the sun stood in the ninth house, that is the place in the day, Alkabisi says, for "pilgrims and travellers, for religious men, wise men, and prophets; for books, and letters and reports of delegates, or rumors, and dreams." Clearly the very stars reserved that time for a business meeting.
For this august event I have cast a horoscope showing where the seven medieval planets lay at that hour. They were disposed in a difficult configuration, that of a grand cross. Overhead was the sun, closely followed by Mercury and Venus; just rising in the east were Jupiter and the moon; while just setting in the west was Saturn; and finally, opposite Venus, Mars lurked deep beneath the horizon in the midnight house. Thus disposed, these luminaries formed a cosmic cross in which their great energies were dissipated, as it were, by dynamic interaction across the great round table of the zodiac. All in all, a fine figure of a difficult business meeting, to say the least. Fortunately human will can resist evil predispositions emanating from the stars, and we were able to channel this energy into beneficent action on a higher plane.
To learn more we must identify the human embodiments of these planetary forces, which is easily done in a group as much in harmony with cosmic law as our own. Clearly Jupiter is our president, Frank Pegues, who is found here working in conjunction with his understudy, the moon, our vice-president, Richard Face. Mercury can only be your Hermetic scribe, the secretary, and Venus must be some charming lady, in all likelihood, the conference councillor, Sarah Farley. The sun we have already equated with the program, which here is personified by its organizer, the program chairman, John Henneman. And in fact these three persons last named were clustered together at the luncheon table. That leaves Saturn and Mars to identify with the chairmen of the nominating committee and of the local arrangements committee. The former was that Saturnine elder statesman, Dean Richard Sullivan; and the latter office, requiring aggressive efforts to effect local arrangements, were shared by James Brundage and Jack McGovern, perhaps because Mars at this moment was in a retrograde phase. Such, then, was the disposition of the stars as we squared off for the postprandial business.
Stately Jove adjusted the microphone and announced that this year's business would be quickly dispatched because nothing really important was at hand. The Midwestern Mercury, however, was not to be railroaded through the minutes, which like quicksilver were both flashy and heavy. Next our team of retrograde martian hosts, Brundage and McGovern, rose for a well deserved round of applause.
Thereafter we heard the report of our delegate to the Mediaeval Academy, Karl Morrison. Since we have run out of medieval planets, I shall venture to identify him with a modern addition to the planetary family, to wit, Uranus. The Academy is preparing to celebrate its fiftieth birthday with a display of alchemy, whereby the golden anniversary can be transmuted into ready cash. We were earnestly entreated to help discover pretexts for funding that would, when cooked into a good grant proposal, prove to be the philosopher's stone.
All of which brought to mind our own exiguous financial structure, and prompted jovial President Pegues to announce that our CARA dues had been reduced from fifty to twenty-five dollars per annum.
After Uranus camr Neptune, another post-medieval planet, in the person of Tim Runyan, who invited the conference to spend next year some 6º to the east and very nearly 2º to the south, at Cleveland State University. No one took the auspices; no one cast a horoscope for Columbus Day in Cleveland; no one even consulted the almanac: instead, with spontaneous applause we agreed to celebrate next year with Neptune as our host on the shore of Lake Eire.
Finally the ever Saturnine Sullivan arose to speak for the nominating committee (Boyd Hill and Don Sutherland), on whose motion the following were unanimously promoted to stellar roles for 1974: president: Richard Face; vice-president: J. A. Raftis; councillors: Robert Kovaric and Marjoie Gessner; and secretary: Richard Kay. The sun was by then nearing the eighth house, and the meeting was hastily adjourned with the rattle of a microphone thunderbolt.
From 2 until 4 p.m. our programmatic sun, steered now by Marcia Colish, ploughed through the next house, darkly known as "the house of death." And eighth house affairs were indeed reflected in the three papers on moribund themes: "Testamentary Bequests and the Laicization of Charity in Rouerge, 1280-1350" by Susanne Roberts; "The Terrors of the Year 1033" by Jane Schulenburg; and "Councils in the Eleventh Century" by Schafer Williams. The last requires some gloss to explain that its thesis was that conciliar studies of the eleventh century ought to be revivified, implying that at present such studies were all but dead.
Four o'clock came too soon for all of our questions, and the sun entered the house which the Latins called "conjugium," which has been weakly Englished as "partnership." Some congressists returned to their hotel rooms, while others followed the suggestion of the program and went to view icons in the local museum, which was also appropriate, as the fine arts are proper to this house.
The next house, from 6 to 8 p.m., moderns might call the house of social hour; Latins termed it "the house of infirmity (infirmitorum)"; for the Greeks it was "the house of bad luck (kake tuche)". Under whatever name, these hours quickly passed and once again the sun returned to the playful "house of pleasure," as we settled down to feast, first our bodies, then our minds, when Giles Constable crowned the day with a discourse of "Forgery and Plagiarism in the Middle Ages" in which one might easily discern the fifth-house qualities of amusement, creativity, and speculative thought. Our diurnal cycle was completed thereby, and the balance of the day, or rather night, pursued its predictable course though the night houses.
And to those of you who still doubt that astrology is an exact science, I offer this comparison with systems of lesser certitude. According to my almanac (Baer's Agricultural Almanac for the Year 1973) we should have had "blustery squalls east to the Ohio river valley" from October 4 through 7. And moreover the same source gives a fifteenth-century English table of unlucky days, from which it appears that October had but one unlucky day, namely the day of our conference, October 6.
The "Brown Bottle" was in the basement of the now defunct Schlitz Brewery. It was decorated as a German beer garden of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Jim Brundage, who was at UWM and later went to the University of Kansas, shrewdly provided a shuttle to keep drunken medievalists from being arrested for DUI....