Monday, 21 January 2013

Conferences, collaborations, conversations

It took me most of last year to get used to the idea that I'd finally finished my PhD. Such a drastic change in one's social status requires the appropriate ritual observation, as I've known since I first read Arnold van Gennep as an undergraduate. Sure enough, after the rite of passage that is the graduation ceremony I did at last feel I could resume normal intellectual life. (The accompanying picture was taken on his 'phone by Pany Costa as we queued in the bitter wind outside St Albans Cathedral in November).

There was a slight blip in that resumption, as we were burgled a week later and I lost my laptop. I've retrieved most of the documents, but there are one or two recordings that are gone forever, I'm afraid. I found that so traumatic that I found it difficult to get back to full speed, even when I had a computer in my hands again.

So it was very nice to spend a little time at the Folklore Society/Warburg Institute Alliterativa Causa conference at the weekend. I gave a paper at the previous alliteration conference (which resulted in this volume) so it was nice to catch up again. I'm not sure I'm entirely on top of the technical aspects of the question, and I confess to feeling somewhat intimidated by the linguistics scholars: in part I think there may be work to be done on the gulf between scholarly and vernacular understandings of alliteration. There was, though, much to enjoy even in papers well outside my research interests and comfort zone.

It was also nice to catch up again with Jonathan Roper, who organised the conference. Jonathan supervised my MA dissertation: I enjoy his company and his scholarship, not least because I don't always agree with his interpretations or readings, but they're always suggestive and make for interesting thinking. I enjoyed, too, a conversation over coffee with Fionnuala Carson Williams, who also gave a paper at that first conference. She insisted on the importance of going to conferences, mainly as a way of participating in the intellectual life of a discipline and engaging other scholars in your shared pursuits.

I've haven't gone to many conferences over the last couple of years (busy writing up, then broke and ill), but I really enjoy them for those very reasons. So I've belatedly made a resolution to get back out into the world of conferences so I can find out what my colleagues are up to, and float my ideas with other people engaged in this field. I'm looking forward to it.