Female Fun at Kalamazoo: All the Single (and Married) Ladies at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies

Medieval women dominated my experience the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, an annual conference that takes place at Western Michigan University.  Imagine thousands of medievalists rushing to sessions with titles such as “Fanfiction in Medieval Studies” and “‘Get Ye Flask’: Friars and Uroscopy in Medieval England” (uroscopy being the science of analyzing urine).

Medieval Mikveh
Medieval Mikveh

The amazing Jane Chance, Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor Emerita of English, Rice University, gave a wonderful plenary address on J.R.R. Tolkien’s relationships and mentorship of women, some of whom went on to become prominent medievalists. This talk comes from her forthcoming book.  I then attended a fascinating panel on Jewish Women in Medieval England. See more about the presence of Jews in England before their expulsion here. And I got to meet up with my pilgrimage scholar buddies, Suzanne Yeager and Dee Dyas, for our lively session on pilgrimage poetics and the role of the senses in the pilgrimage experience.

I was able to spend a lot of time with my wonderful student, Rachel Snow, who is working on her MA at Texas State University. We had fun going to sessions, attending a conference, and drinking beer.

I attended a concert with Rachel and the generous and gracious medieval mystery novelist, Candace Robb, that featured the amazing Corina Marti, who played an instrument new to us all: the Clavicimbalum. Here Corina in the video below.

More women were present at two wonderful dinners: one with great ladies from places as varied as Seattle, Texas, and Vermont. The other was replete with medieval novelists, including myself, hosted by Gloria Tiller at Kazoo Books. Here are some photos with the great writers Candace Robb, Grace Tiffany, and Sharan Newman. Be sure to read my rave review of Candace’s latest book here.

I was honored to be join these writers, along with Lucy Pick and Mel Starr, at the noontime brown bag lunch for medieval novelists who have a Q & A, hosted by Gloria, and where writers interact with an audience of novel-reading enthusiasts.  In the past, I was just sitting in the audience. It was a thrill to be sitting among these wonderful fellow writers!

From l. to r. Candace Robb, Lucy Pick, Grace Tiffany, me, Mel Starr, and Sharan Newman. Photo by Todd Toussaint at Kazoo Books.
From l. to r. Candace Robb, Lucy Pick, Grace Tiffany, me, Mel Starr, and Sharan Newman. Photo by Todd Toussaint at Kazoo Books.

So, a conference replete with other women–medieval and modern, fledgling and experienced, American and from around the world–made it a marvelous experience! Can’t wait to return next time!


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