President: Timothy Runyan,
Cleveland State University
Friday, October 8, 1982
Reception, Room 456, Memorial Union
Saturday, October 9, 1982
11:40 a.m., General Session, Krannert Auditorium
- 1:30 p.m.
4:30 p.m., General Session, Krannert Auditorium
6:00 p.m., Reception, Room 456, Memorial Union
p.m., Dinner, West Faculty Lounge, Room 250, Memorial Union,
I must begin with a painful confession. I did not write the minutes you are about to hear. True, I supplied the substance, but they were written down in medieval fashion by a clerk of the Inquisition. For, believe it or not, in the state of Kansas a formal inquiry by the legal authorities is still called an "inquisition." The particular tribunal that is investigating my connection with the Midwest Medieval Conference does not permit me to reveal its identity or otherwise to discuss my case while it is still sub judice, but I am authorized to read to you these minutes of the inquisition.
* * *
RICHARD KAY, doctor of philosophy and professing to teach the same in the Kansan University, being a resident of Lawrence and a man of middle age, has declared in his confession to the lawful authorities that he has been a member of the Midwest Medieval Conference for about twenty years and is dedicated to its service. Frequently on Friday nights members of this diabolical conspiracy have assembled to attend the Sabbath, which is held sometimes in one place, sometimes in another. There, in company with like-minded men and women they commit all manner of excesses, whose details are horrible to tell. The aforesaid suspect has been interrogated and remains under suspicion until our investigation shall have been completed.
He declares that he was enticed by one James Powell into joining the aforesaid conspiracy, and he admits that it continues to meet annually at some time between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, at different places but always beginning on a Friday night and continuing through the night of the Sabbath itself. Item, he tells us that they are summoned to their Sabbath by a demon named Programma, who appears to them in the form of a sheet of colored paper.
Upon being asked to describe the most recent of these Sabbaths, he stated that on the night of October 8, 1982, he was transported with great speed, by magic as it were, to the banks of the Wabash, at a place called in the vernacular "Lafayette," which grammatically is "Fatuncula" or "Fairyland." There the hosts of perdition have founded a school for lost souls, called "Purdue" or rather "Perdue" because they are lost, i.e. "perditae." This place, the suspect said, is famous for its mammoth Sabbaths, where tens of thousands gather to worship their god Boilermaker, who is attended--horribile dictu--by a Golden Girl and her Silver Twins.
The deponent, however, denied any personal knowledge of these savage rites, and he insisted that his own coven was a small, peripatetic one that served an obscure spirit bearing the ominous name Mid-Evil, i.e. the heart of iniquity. The devotees of this Mid-Evil came to Perdue as guests of John Contreni, one of the few princes of that school who are dedicated to the liberal arts rather than to the construction of infernal machines. This Contreni lodged them in the most sacred precincts of Boilermaker, a building commonly called "the Union," which is in fact a complex so sprawling and vast and so honeycombed with crypts and undercrofts that it might better be called "the Labyrinth." Here perhaps five dozen followers of Mid-Evil were oblivious to the equinoctial storms that raged outside, not only because their cells were equipped with private bath, telephone, clock radio, and color television but also, and more particularly, because a hospitality suite enable them to mingle at their pleasure until the first hour of the Sabbath arrived.
Thus it was not until the third hour after dawn that they assembled to witness the annual offerings to the demanding goddess Programma, which on this occasion were prepared by her priestess Maureen Mazzaoui, with Michael Altschul and John Henneman acting as acolytes. All morning long the ears of the prurient itched as they were filled with tales of crime, sex, and even heresy. The tone was set by Sarah Blanshei (Tennessee), whose theme was "Criminality in Medieval Bologna." Not to be outdone, Vern Bullough (Buffalo) responded with "The Social Implications of Deviant Behavior: Sadism and Masochism in the Middle Ages." But horror of horrors, Jane Schulenburg (Wisconsin Extension at Madison) would seem to have spawned a new heresy in her contribution, entitled "Golden Wombs: Motherhood and Sanctity in the Middle Ages," which claimed that women had to try harder than men to attain sanctity.
Such venom had so infected the minds of all that, at the hour when religious folk hear the office of none, this corrupt company joined in a collation at which men and women seated themselves promiscuously. And they had their pleasure until at length they were conjured into silence by the grand wizard, their chief officer, who that year was Tim Runyan (Cleveland State). The deponent stated that it was then his duty to read the minutes of the last meeting, and upon hearing that written records had been kept of such affairs, the inquisitors demanded that the book of minutes be produced. Having duly perused the same, they found it to be frivolous, facetious, and so beyond their comprehension that it was deemed to be an allegory used to conceal frightful mysteries from the uninitiated. Therefore we admonished him to continue his testimony in a straightforward manner, eschewing henceforward such factitious nonsense.
Thus cautioned, he soberly resumed his account and told us that the company began its annual meeting with a silent tribute to its former president, Schafer Williams, who had died on September 21 in the fifth year of his retirement at Shaftsbury, Vermont.
The greater part of the meeting was given over to a report by David Wagner (Northern Illinois) on the doings of CARA, which he explained was "an acronym that meets," and for the most part his report consisted of topical announcements about other acronyms such as MART, TEAMS, SAM, and SMART.
Then Michael Altschul on behalf of the nominating committee presented the following slate of officers for the coming year, who ran unopposed and were accordingly elected unanimously: president: Joseph Lynch (Ohio State); vice-president: John Henneman (Iowa); secretary-treasurer: Richard Kay (Kansas); councillors: Ann Warren (Case Western Reserve) and Steven Rowan (Missouri at St. Louis).
Finally, the invitation of Randolph Daniel to meet next year at the University of Kentucky in Lexington was received with enthusiasm and anticipation, which was heightened by the announcement that an invitation for the following year could still be expected from Northern Illinois University at DeKalb. President Runyan then adjourned the meeting, as he had conducted it, with the parliamentary aplomb proper to an assistant dean.
At this point our inquisitors urged the witness to confine himself henceforward to matters of substance and not to trouble their excellencies further with accounts of empty and inane formalities. So he told us how in the course of the afternoon three more offerings were made to the insatiable Programma: first, "The Causes of Family Extinction among the Nobility in Salzburg in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries" by John Freed (Illinois State); next "Early Medieval Commerce and Coastal Settlement: New Evidence from the Byzantine East" by Timothy Gregory (Ohio State); and finally "The Perishability of Diplomatic Documents: The Case of Two Carolingian Polyptychs" by Paul Dutton (Toronto). Unlike the manifestly iniquitous presentations made that morning, these seemed prima facie to be harmless, and so the inquisitors held them all to be vehemently suspect of containing occult, esoteric, and diabolical doctrines apparent only to the initiates of Mid-Evil. The witness was thereupon warned not to delay the proceeds any further by such deceptions, and instead the inquisitors suggested that he might remember something about a black mass or an orgy.
Richard, forced to confess by the means we have power to use to make people speak the truth, admitted to both abominations. He said that the company, first having raised their spirits with much potation, did celebrate a feast together in common, after which they heard a sermon on "The Making of the Medieval Family: Symmetry, Structure, Sentiment," delivered by David Herlihy (Harvard), a mighty warlock in league with three potent demons named Sociologus, Statisticus, and Calculator. This ritual completed, the congregation cast all decency aside and again retired to the hospitality suite, where they consorted together until the early hours of the Lord's Day, when they went their several ways, but not before poisoning the wells along the Wabash with powdered toads.
When Richard had been justly forced to give this account of himself, our tribunal found him guilty of frivolity and inattention, and therefore sentenced him to return to his coven next year to collect more detailed and incriminating evidence. And here I am, respectfully submitting this document in lieu of my own minutes.
From the Program: The Midwest Medieval Conference (MMC) has met some two dozen times during the past twenty-one years. Meetings have been held on campuses throughout the Midwest -- a region which has always been defined by medievalists in much broader terms than those used by geographers. This is the first year the MMC visits Purdue University
The interests of MMC conferees are also broadly defined. Largely comprised of historians, the MMC welcomes papers and attendance by scholars from other disciplines who can address historical concerns. At previous meetings, papers have been organized around central themes. This year's fascinating program presents a mixture of themes, locales, emphases, and scholars.
Prof. David Herlihy, a former President of the MMC when he was at the University of Wisconsin and now Professor of History at Harvard University, will deliver the after-dinner address. Professor Herlihy is a distinguished historian known widely for his pioneering work in social history. His many studies interest medievalists as much for the historical methodology they employ as for the light they shed on medieval social phenomena.