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International Medieval Congress, Leeds - update

Please find below the latest instalment of the Leeds International Medieval Congress Newsletter. We hope through the newsletter to keep in touch with IMC participants past and present, and to inform them of forthcoming IMC events.

You can read more on the last IMC 2013 in this newsletter, as well as on the forthcoming the call-for-papers for IMC 2014. A fully formatted version of this newsletter is available to download and print here.

International Medieval Congress : Summer 2013 Newsletter

- 1. IMC 2013 : Academic Programme
The twentieth annual International Medieval Congress took place at the University of Leeds from 1-4 July. A record 1,848 delegates attended, from 49 different countries, making this the largest Congress yet. The Congress welcomed a wide range of delegates, from early career academics to established scholars.

This year’s IMC took place – for the first time ever – on the University of Leeds’s main campus. The move enabled IMC delegates to explore the University and nearby city centre, offering newly refurbished on-campus accommodation, purpose-built session rooms, and a variety of new social and networking spaces. Although there were some inevitable teething issues during this move to campus, the overall feedback was very positive, and we are already hard at work looking for solutions in order to deliver an even better IMC in 2014.

This year, more than half of delegates came from outside the UK : over 630 from Europe (not including the UK) and over 380 from outside Europe, from as far afield as Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Argentina. A programme of 458 sessions and round table discussions explored all aspects of the European Middle Ages, with such diverse papers as ’Epic as History : The Elements of Oral Epic Tradition in the Byzantine Chronicles of the 10th-11th Centuries’, ’Élites y oligarquías en la Galicia del siglo XV : el caso de los arrendadores de impuestos’, ’Building the Ontology of Medieval Written Signs : New Horizons for Palaeography’, and ’’’Vous avroiz entier soulaz / de vostre amie en vos braz’’ : Trouvères and Pleasure’. The programme also included the first annual Early Medieval Europe Lecture by Rosamond McKitterick (Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge) : ’The Pleasures of the Past : History and Identity in the Early Middle Ages’. The ’’’Looking For Richard’’ : The Greyfriars Project’ special event on Wednesday 3 July gave Congress delegates the unique opportunity to hear about the excavation of the Greyfriars Church in Leicester from the team that discovered Richard III’s burial.

The special thematic strand of ’Pleasure’ attracted much interest and excitement and 141 sessions were presented within this strand. Keynote addresses were given by Esther Cohen (Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and William Reddy (Department of History / Department of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University). The ’Pleasure’ strand was expertly co-ordinated by Piroska Nagy (Département d’Histoire, Université du Québec à Montréal), and we would like to express our thanks to her for all of her hard work over the past year. The special thematic strand clearly opened up new avenues of interest, and we hope that all who presented in or attended sessions found them engaging and fulfilling.

- 2. IMC Feedback and New Media
This year, for the first time, we offered our delegates the opportunity to provide online feedback on the IMC. More than 400 IMC delegates responded, and results have been immensely useful in helping us to collate feedback on various aspects of the IMC, ranging from the academic programme, session rooms, accommodation, and catering to the atmosphere of the IMC and social and networking spaces. Overall, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and the majority of delegates have viewed the on-campus move not only as a success, but as an improvement on previous IMCs. Thank you to everyone who took part in our online survey and paper questionnaires.

As with any transition as large as the move to the main University of Leeds campus, a few teething problems did emerge. Assessing our own paper questionnaires alongside the online survey results, it became clear there was a reoccurring issue with session room capacities. Our feedback forms indicated that there were 45 instances of rooms being too small for the audience and 24 instances of the rooms being too large. The average session attendance was 20 IMC delegates, but the number of attendees can vary widely. Due to safety laws and regulations, some audience members were unfortunately turned away from some sessions. These rules govern all proceedings at the University, such as classes, lectures, and special events, and failure to comply presents a considerable risk to IMC delegates. For this reason, we thank you for your patience this year and apologise for any inconvenience caused. For next year, we are already hard at work on addressing this issue, and we will try our utmost to make sure that this will not be repeated at future IMCs.

The University of Leeds campus offered several new venues for networking and social space during this year’s IMC. The Marquee on University Square proved to be a favourite among IMC delegates as it had an excellent atmosphere for post-session chats, meetings, and the welcome chance to sit outside with a cup of coffee and colleagues. The Centenary Gallery in the Parkinson Court was also popular ; it was the perfect place to meet with publishers and grab a cup of coffee during session breaks. Needless to say, the Old Bar in Leeds University Union proved to be a great place for evening socialising, serving perfect pints of Congress Ale.

As these venues were highlighted as favourites of IMC delegates in the online survey, we are looking at ways to further enhance them as socialising and networking areas for IMC 2014. Discussions are already underway for a series of events in the Marquee to strengthen the social heart of the IMC.

#IMC2013 rang throughout the ’Twitterverse’ during this July. Over the course of the 4 days, over 300 tweets were shared amongst IMC staff and delegates. Tweets from the Bookfair, coffee breaks, excursions, and concerts shared everything from the day to day information to photos of soaring falcons during the ’Making Leeds Medieval’ event. Live tweeting from inside session rooms provided information on new trends in digital palaeography and one tweeter even broke the news that one lucky session took place in the presence of a replica of Bede’s skull ! Tweeting at the IMC proved to be a successful and exciting platform from which to share a plethora of up-to-the-minute details and answers to questions. Twitter also allowed those who could not join us at the IMC to catch up with all the excitement. #IMC2014 is already in the works – join our Twitter network @IMC_Leeds to receive all the latest from the IMC.

- 3. Events and Excursions
Events and excursions this year offered a mix of familiar favourites and new experiences. Back by popular demand, Joglaresa and Salzburger Virgilschola returned to the IMC with two very different programmes of music : ’Songes of Sinne and Subversioun’ and ’The Angel’s Pleasure of the Annunciation’, celebrating both the sacred and the profane. This IMC also witnessed the Leeds premiere of ’Francis, the Holy Jester’, written and directed by Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo and performed by Mario Pirovano, which offered a new and engaging look at the famous saint. The IMC events programme opened with a concert of harp music by Leah Stuttard, introducing the audience to the sound world of a 15th-century wool merchant. Workshops in spinning wool, fingerloop braiding, and the role of spices in the medieval household also made up an important part of the event programme and, as always, proved to be popular.

This year the IMC took advantage of its new setting by offering a range of excursions exploring our new venue and its surroundings. Tours of the University of Leeds campus discussing the history and art of the University as well as tours of the city centre and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society were well received. Delegates also enjoyed trips to Helmsley and Sheriff Hutton Castles, Fountains Abbey, York, and Durham. In Durham, participants not only visited the cathedral, but also the newly-opened Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition, concluding the visit with an exclusive question and answer session with one of the exhibition’s curators.

On Thursday afternoon, we celebrated our arrival on the main campus with our first ever ’Making Leeds Medieval’ event. University Square was transformed by craft stands, a farmers’ market, and demonstrations of medieval medicine, textiles, armour and food, not to mention the opportunity to see and handle birds of prey. At our two flying displays, observers could also witness these birds in action. (Indeed, two birds actually flew away altogether, but were found later in the evening.) The event concluded with an evening of medieval dance and music where participants were invited to get up and learn the dances themselves. Planning a new programme of events and excursions for IMC 2014 and beyond is already underway, but please contact us with any ideas or suggestions.

- 4. IMC Fairs
This year the IMC Bookfair took place in the Parkinson Court and hosted thirty-seven academic publishers and organisations displaying and selling their latest publications in medieval studies, catching up with current authors, and meeting potential new ones. The prominent location of the Bookfair in the University’s iconic Parkinson Building also tempted other members of the University and local community to browse and buy alongside IMC delegates.

In addition to the main Bookfair, the popular Second-hand and Antiquarian Bookfair drew IMC delegates to the Riley Smith Hall in the University Union Building. Thirteen booksellers presented a wide range of books on medieval subjects, making this the largest ever Second-hand Bookfair at the IMC.

IMC2013 also saw the return of the Craft Fair and Historical and Archaeological Societies Fair. Delegates enjoyed the opportunity to view and purchase a variety of medieval inspired crafts including hand-dyed wool, beads, jewellery, and even stained glass ! Nine stalls were presented by various Historical and Archaeological Societies from all over the UK, providing IMC delegates the opportunity to learn about the important work these societies do on both local and national levels and giving delegates the chance to find out how to get involved.

All of the fairs proved to be popular among IMC delegates, the wider University of Leeds community, and the local public, who were all invited to come and experience the fairs first-hand. For IMC 2014, we are looking at ways to build on the success of this year’s fairs with a view to expand and enhance the experience for our exhibitors and delegates.

- 5. Elizabeth Williams and The IMS Endowment Fund
This year, the Institute for Medieval Studies received a gift of a large library of books on medieval studies from the late Elizabeth Williams, one of the founders of the Centre for Medieval Studies at Leeds. The books were given to the Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS) in order to help support future IMS students through the IMS Endowment Fund. The books were offered to all IMC delegates in the main Parkinson Court Bookfair in exchange for donations. The venture was hugely successful, raising £1,523.17 for the IMS Endowment Fund. In addition to the benefits for IMS students, IMC delegates had the opportunity to peruse a variety of important, rare, and out-of-print publications that will now fill the shelves of medieval scholars’ worldwide. Many thanks to all of the volunteers who helped to staff the stall during the IMC.

Several delegates suggested that we should continue offering a book exchange service in future years (donated books given to interested scholars in exchange for a donation). If you have books in need of a good home, we would be keen to hear from you.

Please contact the IMC if you are interested in this, or if you would like to make a different donation to the IMS Endowment Fund.

- 6. IMC 2014, ’Empire’ : 7-10 July 2014
Plans for the academic programme of IMC 2013 are well underway. The IMC continues to welcome proposals for papers and sessions on all aspects of the study of the European Middle Ages, in any major European language.

Although the last western Roman emperor was deposed in 476, the Roman Empire continued to shape imagination even when it had ceased to play a major political role. Throughout the Middle Ages, ’Empire’ suggested a claim to universal lordship. The concept of imperium implied not only the ability and power to exercise authority over others, but could also be used to distinguish spiritual from secular spheres of power. There was also the concept of ’informal empire’, a term often employed by modern historians to describe a group of distinct territories held together by ties of commerce, ideology, dynastic traditions, or conquest.

’Informal empires’ were forged by King Cnut in the 11th century and by the rulers of Aragon in the 14th. The papacy, the western Empire, and Byzantium all claimed to inherit the mantle of Rome, while the Caliphates expressed a similar claim to universal leadership. The meaning of imperium, in turn, became a central issue in medieval scholarship, whether in scholastic theology, medieval philosophy, canon law, or the writing of history and literature. No type of empire was unable to avoid challenges (and challengers). Each type exercised a profound influence not only on politics, but on every aspect of daily life : on commerce and trade as well as the environment, cultural practice, social structures and organisation, the movement of ideas and people. Empires and their rulers could also be products of political and cultural memory and myth-making, with Charlemagne, Arthur, and Troy perhaps among the more famous examples.

’Empire’ was not limited to the regions surrounding the medieval Mediterranean. Universal monarchy was central to the self-representation of imperial China, while informal empires rose and fell in Africa as well as in Asia and pre-Columbian America. Christian, Confucian, Buddhist, and Islamic scholars discussed ’Empire’ in all its varieties and forms.

Empire was a universal phenomenon, and thus calls for sustained exploration across a wide range of disciplines, and geographical and chronological areas of expertise.

Points of discussion could include :
• The role of settlers, merchants, rulers, and others in creating and fashioning empire
• The decline and fall of empires
• The typology of empire
• The governance and organisation of empires
• The experience of empire by individuals and communities
• The representation of Empire in music, art, literature, and material culture
• Traditions of empire, their use and development
• Theoretical models of Empire : Medieval and modern
• Concepts and practices of empire in the Islamic world, Africa, America, and Asia
• The role of imperium in medieval philosophy, theology, and literature
• The role of universal authority in medieval thought and practice
• The influence of medieval concepts and practices of empire on their post-medieval successors

Dates to remember :
IMC 2014 paper proposals deadline : 31 August 2013
IMC 2014 session proposals deadline : 30 September 2013
IMC 2014 : 7-10 July 2014
IMC 2015 : 6-9 July 2015
IMC 2016 : 4-7 July 2016