Blog from CSM President:

In November I had the pleasure of attending a joint conference of the Atlantic Medieval Association and the Atlantic Medieval and Early Modern Group in Sackville, New Brunswick. It started out in an almost-can’t-see-to-drive downpour and ended in a glorious fall day aflame with autumn colours.

The conference is about as small as you can get, and I almost didn’t go this year because – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – I was swamped with teaching and admin. But small conferences like the AMA are so important. I attended some excellent papers, of course, and actually got the chance to make an astrolabe – Dr.  Samuel Gessner of the University of Lisbon was the keynote speaker, and the “Hands-on History of the Astrolabe” he presented was not a metaphor! (My arts-and-crafts skills are distinctly rusty, I might add.) The real value, though, was in making connections with other medievalists. Increasingly, many of us are the lone medievalists at our universities, and academic societies provide a welcome respite from the isolation and loneliness that can entail.

I was also “pricked” – to use a Middle English word – by a panel responding to the calls to action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Hitherto I had felt a bit helpless in the face of the calls: yes, we can do more as institutions to support Indigenous students; yes, we can support calls for Indigenous literatures and histories, and work on making them mainstream – but honestly, I thought, as a medievalist, there’s not much I can do in my field. Saying “Indigenous peoples were around in the Middle Ages too and so we should study Indigenous cultures from 1000-1500” seemed a bit facile, to my way of thinking (never mind that it is imposing colonizing Western European periodization on the world, and risks cultural appropriation as well).

But the panel got me thinking about the ways in which Canadian medievalists can seriously and genuinely respond to the TRC in our scholarship as well as our institutions. We talked about incorporating Indigenous knowledge practices both in our classrooms, rethinking the top-down lecture approach, and in our scholarship, applying Indigenous theories and approaches to canonical texts. We talked about ways to avoid falling into the trap of “empty words” and “rote repetition” in our acknowledgements of the Indigenous territories our universities are built upon. We talked about countering the alt-right appropriation of medieval images and medievalism. And after the conference Lauren Beck compiled and circulated a bibliography of Indigenous literary and historical theory and methods.

In the coming months I will be posting more about these kinds of topics – both ways to counter the alt-right in our classrooms, and ways of thinking about Indigenous theory in our scholarship. I’d also like to know how you are responding to the TRC, not only in your institution but in your scholarship and teaching. And any Indigenous resources you can send me would be great as well.

A note from our President

3 Sep 2018 9:09 AM | CSM Webmaster (Administrator)

CSM President’s note

Hello Canadian Medievalists,

Well, Labour Day is upon us and the fluster and flurry of a new teaching term has arrived. You will all have received Scrinium in your email boxes, so if you weren’t at Congress, you will know that I am the new CSM President (joined by Dominic Marner as Past President, Marc Cels as Vice President, Meredith Bacola as the indispensable Secretary/Treasurer ... as well as the even-more-indispensable Andrew Klein as webmaster, Christa Canitz and Sebastien Rossignol as Florilegium editors, Brandon Alakas, Kristin Bourassa, and Stephanie Lahey as social media co-ordinators, and various members of the Board and prize chairs). I am only realizing as I type what a great, and extensive, team of people there are in the CSM. Many thanks go to the people stepping down, especially to David Watt as Past President.

First, an apology – I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to Congress this year. This is what I was doing instead:

(Rievaulx Abbey)

I hope you all had a good summer and are ready for the fall. Send me information about your research and projects you’re involved in. We know that Canadian Medievalists are doing exciting things, but Canadians are a modest bunch, and too often we only find out what other medievalists are doing by accident. Send photos we can post too.

Have a great back-to-school season!

Veuillez m’excuser pour écrire en Anglais seulement.


  • 21 Oct 2018 5:43 PM | John Osborne
    Please don't leave us in suspense: what were you doing at Rievaulx??
    Link  •  Reply
    • 8 Jan 2019 8:43 AM | Kathy Cawsey (Administrator)
      I was on a year's sabbatical in Durham ... so we got to visit lots of ruins, including Rievaulx. My kids thoroughly enjoyed clambering around!
      Link  •  Reply

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