I just returned from the UK, attending the Writing Britain conference in Cambridge and then the Leeds International Medieval Congress, with four days between to explore Lancashire (possible Battle of Brunanburh sites!) while avoiding the Tour de France. More on the road trip in the next post (except for this picture from the Peak District).
I won’t say a lot about the sessions because it is too much to absorb and report on all at once, other than to say that it was great to hang out and converse with Anglo-Saxonists and other medievalists at both conferences (I have learned from following Jonathan Jarrett that it can take a full year to report on the IMC!). However, I will note two things from Leeds:
First, Michael Wood’s plenary lecture on the Battle of Brun(n)anburh was a masterfully told story, unsurprisingly. It was like being in a sleek boat on a swift stream, moving inexorably toward a destination, without being able to see out the sides where the alternative streams and byways might lead. He gave the obligatory warnings about the location of the battle being undiscoverable and about the unreliability of the primary sources, then proceeded to take us to the site he has discovered while relying on twelfth century or later sources he asserted were authentic tenth century records, all along assuring us that no one had paid attention to this or that fact or source that he was highlighting. Convincing…unless you have read the debates. However, he did cast enough serious doubt on the Bromborough Wirral thesis to keep the debate going. He also punctured the notion that archaeological finds might locate the battle: no specific battle has been authenticated by such finds, and if we did find something, we would then debate what battle it was.
Second, I discovered in the book area that Arizona Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (AMRTS) now has a historical fiction wing called Bagwyn Books. They have published, among others, a novel called Eadfrith, Scribe of Lindisfarne by Michelle “Treeves,” heartily endorsed on the back by none other than Lindisfarne Gospel expert Michelle Brown. It is a short book, highly informative and descriptive with strong sympathy for the religious life of its main characters. At least initially, its style is very evocative of Anglo-Saxon poetry. I enjoyed reading it and am encouraged by it to pursue my own project on Aldred, heir to, and witness of, Eadfrith’s opus dei in the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Last, I was gratified to hear from a number of Anglo-Saxonists that they are eagerly looking forward to attending ISAS 2017 in Honolulu. Next up, Glasgow 2015!