Illinois State University
President: Thomas Burman, University
With sincere and profound apologies to Pope Benedict XVI. Your eminences, your magnificences, your excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a reading of the minutes for the Midwestern Medieval History Conference. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at F J Reitz Hochschule, as the German immigrants who so populated this area would have said, here at Evansville, I began college at the University of Southern Indiana; likewise here at Evansville. I am then a Hoosier boy from Indiana born and bred. Just as humanists commented that Arezzo was the wetnurse of chancellors, since so many of those quattrocento Florentine office holders had come from there, so too Evansville is the wetnurse of medievalists. We have two represented here: Annette Parks, our current host from the University of Evansville, and Jason Hardgrave, our colleague from the University of Southern Indiana. And of course that most famous and eminent medievalist came from here as well-NO, not me, but Robert Brentano, once of Cal Berkeley, and also as I found from our records once speaker to this august body in 1986.
As a learned Hoosier in discussing things with that erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he asked me, "show me just what the Midwestern Medieval History Conference brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman." I know, I know, I know-I can feel the groundswell of your protest as if it stretched from Pakistan to Morocco, as if carried by the bombast and bloviating of that trickster and protean Reynart the Fox news. I disagreed, citing the 44th Annual Midwest Medieval History Conference at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois 14-15 October 2005.
Lest you think there is not much said about the Midwest Medieval History Conference in the Byzantine records, let me remind you of the profound and prophetic words of Anna Comnena in the Alexiad. And of course I quote not from the Penguin text, but the little known but useful Duck text (well, I will admit it is not all its quacked up to be) "Full of enthusiasm and ardor [for all things medieval-I liberally interpolate according to the eminent scholar von Breslau] they thronged every highway-myself 24 to 41 to 64 to 57 to 74-outnumbering the sands of the sea shore or the stars of heaven [or the dead raccoons sprouting on the roadside-again another interpolation]. Like tributaries joining a river from all directions they streamed towards us in full force, mostly through [Illinois-again an interpolation]. The arrival of this mighty host was preceded by locusts, which abstained from the wheat but made frightful inroads on the vines, which showed that the Midwest Medieval History Conference were the slaves of drunkenness and wine and Dionysos." Having once hosted a President's reception, I can only attest to the wisdom and veracity of Anna's words.
President Thomas Burman, spatharios, called us in 2004 to meet in 2005 at Illinois State University, where we were graciously hosted by John Freed, strategos, of Illinois State University. And we do thank that mosaic of officials and offices and people of Illinois State University that made our stay there so pleasant. Strategos Freed made available to us that Hagia Sophia of the College of Business Building. And filled with wisdom it was on 14 and 15 October. President Burman, also porphyrogenitus and no usurper, was ably seconded by Vice President Laura Wertheimer, protospatharios. Michael Lower, stator, ably composed the Corpus Iuris Civilis-Digest, Institutes, Novellae-of the program.
Visiting scholars and graduate students discussed matters on the first day, Friday 14 October. Brendan McGuire, St. Louis University, presented "The Final Solution? Seeking an Alternative to MacMullen;'s Model of the Christianization of the Roman Empire and the Fate of Paganism after AD 380"; and Elizabeth Anderson, University of Minnesota, presented "Authority and its Limits in Late Eleventh-Century Narbonne" in the session Church and Law in the Early and Central Middle Ages, chaired by Michael Lower of the University of Minnesota. Next Kira Robison, University of Minnesota, presented "The Cutting of Dead Flesh: Autopsy, Dissection, and Crime in the Middle Ages"; Michael Deen, Rutgers University, presented "The Rise of Capitalist Labor Structures in the Fourteenth-Century Cornish Stannaries"; and Donald Leech, University of Minnesota, presented "Riotously Arrayed: Conflict, Locality, and Identity in Late Medieval Coventry" in the session Crime, Capitalism, and Conflict chaired by Michael Bailey of Iowa State University. Next Mark Blincoe, University of Minnesota, presented "Count Fulk IV of Anjou and the First Crusade"; Caroline Smith, University of Cambridge, presented "Literary Production and Preservation in the Context of the Crusades: A New Approach to Songs in Old French"; and N. L. Paul. St. Louis University, presented "The Closed Gates of Jerusalem: Motif and Memory in Dynastic Historical Narratives" in the session The Crusades: Representation and Practice. The Byzantine historian Niceas Choniates relates how the Russ and the Varangian Guard were very present at these sessions.
As is usual after the Friday session, the members of the Midwest Medieval History Conference scattered far and wide in search of delicacies-perhaps lute fisk for our friends from the gopher state-just like the Fourth Crusaders had scattered far and wide searching for relics. Some discovered Biaggi's, and had a pleasant time there. John and Susan Freed graciously opened their palace and gardens for the pleasant rest and repose and entertainment of the Midwest Medieval History Conference after dinner. After that, slumber took over many of the duties of the Midwest Medieval History Conference-some earlier than usual, but time does wear and wear hard and it is no longer 1985-and most retired to camp to rest for the next day's presentations and disputes.
After proper welcome by the Basileus' representative, Gary Olson, Dean of the College of Arts and Science, the Midwest Medieval History Conference in earnest proceeded to refute Manuel II Paleologus. Abigail Firey, University of Kentucky, presented "Iustitia in Battle Dress: Secular and Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions in the Carolingian Polity"; Jason Hardgrave, University of Southern Indiana, presented "Ius Commune Venetiae"; and Lianna Farber, University of Minnesota, presented "Witnesses in Medieval English Marriage Cases' in the session The Varieties of Legal Experience chaired by James Murray of the University of Cincinnati. Next came the plenary address, chaired by Raymond Clemens, Illinois State University; and Anders Winroth, of Yale University, presented "Marital Consent in Medieval Canon Law."
After retiring to the appropriately and classically named and constructed atrium, the Midwest Medieval History Conference feasted on lunch and then held its business meeting. There following the guidelines inscribed in Constantine Porphyrogennetus' A Handbook of Imperial Administration, without blinding, mutilating, starving, poisoning, strangling, dismembering, stabbing, decapitating, and oh well hell castration, or even a host of barbarian Franks and loutish Venetians interfering, Vice President Laura Wertheimer acceded by acclamation to the Presidency.
Good colleagues then presented good eulogies for good friends Tom Amos and Richard Sullivan. The minutes were read and approved. The Treasurer reported. John Freed made some comments about ISU and the McLean County Historical Museum, where we were to go for our President's reception and our banquet.
Elections-and at the Hippodrome the Greens and the Blues and the Whites and the Reds paralleled the campaigning and electioneering; riots ensued, and even Theodora herself would have fled the city, but order prevailed. John Lomax, of Ohio Northern University, was elected by acclamation to the Vice Presidency; Michael Lower was elected by acclamation counselor (Matt Phillips of Concordia University continues); Valerie Garver of Northern Illinois University was elected by acclamation Program Chair; Martin Arbagi, of Wright State University continues as Treasurer; and Louis Haas of Middle Tennessee State University continues inefficiently and ineffectively as Secretary-a true Byzantine Logothete in Teddy Roosevelt words. No one was exiled.
New business was handled. Discussions ensued about the 45th Annual Meeting to be held in Evansville, Indiana, hosted by the University of Evansville-itself also porphyrogenitus. A lively discussion ensued about the President's reception, especially its escalating costs (as if it were a Florentine or Venetian dowry!). Many liked the idea that it become an event at the discretion of the President, maybe returning back to the more pleasant informality of a simpler and more bygone age of the Midwest Medieval History Conference, where people and refreshments casually showed up at the president's hotelroom (a suite might be in order here). The eternal problem of funding was discussed, especially the idea of some sort of special category on the registration form for extra funds and donations. Conference attendance also came up for discussion with a suggestion that a concerted effort be made to dragoon like Janissaries-oh, I am sorry- encourage, more of our colleagues in the Big Ten to attend. Also discussed was the idea that maybe the VP could put in some particular time on the issue of recruitment. The Secretary was tasked with writing the epic of the history of the Midwest Medieval History Conference and to have a precise of this ready by Kalamazoo. Unfortunately, he, in typically dunderheaded-fashion forgot and did not even have a Secret History available. He promises to do better this year. John Lomax arranged to have special sessions at Kalamazoo on economic history, honoring Jack McGovern and Sylvia Thrupp. And these sessions did go well in May. President Werthemier moved and Mark Angelos, of Manchester College seconded a motion to make the language of the original and antediluvian constitution be brought up to modern standards regarding gender specific language. So approved. (Though I noticed this has not been done yet-is this also something the Secretary forgot to do?) The MMHC also decided not to have a 2006 Kalamazoo meeting, but to plan one for 2007 and to have it as a reception. Meeting adjourned.
Wait, I recall the chroniclers do know of this Angelos fellow-Niketas Choniatas note "how many evils the Venetians associated with the rule of the Angelos, Isaac, Alexius and especially Marco." We of the Midwest Medieval History Conference should be wary of this fellow, whom the doge noted as "wretched boy, we dragged thee out of the filth and into the filth we will cast thee again."
Now more discussion and debate. Jessalynn Bird, Oxford University, presented "Law and the Crusader: Papal Judge Delegates and the Negotiation, Enforcement, and Ramifications of Crusader Privileges in the Early Thirteenth Century"; Richard Keyser, Western Kentucky University, presented "An Agreement is Better than a Law: Contract and Custom in Thirteenth-Century France"; and Adam Davis, Denson Univeristy, presented "An Ecclesiastical Administrator of Justice in Thirteenth-Century Normandy: The Case of Archbishop Eudes Rigaud" in the session Privilege, Custom, and Justice in Thirteenth-Century France, chaired by Amy Livingstone of Wittenberg University. Lastly, Timur Pollack-Lagushenko, Wright State University, presented "Litigation and Politics during the War of the Armagnacs and the Burgundians (1407-1435)"; and Michael Ryan, Purdue University, presented "Because Your Sins Deserve Hell: Divination and the Divine Trial of King Joan of Aragon" in the session Law and Politics in the Late Middle Ages chaired by Tom Burman of the University of Tennessee.
A pleasant reception and
dinner ensued. Where there is news of the Midwest Medieval History Conference
there are things of wonderment and interest. As Zosimus the historian
notes-Tread lightly for then you will find Gold.