The Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College: A Narration of Before, During, and After the Experience

“Looking at the program of the day’s readings, it felt immensely empowering to see my name alongside college professors, scholars, and other very impressive people—getting to discuss my own piece with these folks as well, was even more of a privilege.”—Molly Olsen

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From left to right: Molly, Eric, Tyler, Sam, and Misty

It’s proven quite difficult to stop talking about the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College! On Friday, April 24, Molly Olsen, Sam Oppenheim, and myself hopped into a UMF van with Dr. Eric Brown and Dr. Misty Krueger to head for the long awaited trip to Keene, New Hampshire. The trip started early Friday morning and lasted through Saturday night.

Although I was really excited to be invited to join the conference, I was also nervous about presenting to people that were perhaps more knowledgeable in the field than me. Luckily, Eric and Misty provided us with ample time to revise and edit our papers as well as rehearse the presentations. By the time of our presentations (Friday at 2:25), I felt amply prepared to give it my best!

I wasn’t alone in my feelings of nervousness; Molly said,

When someone at the conference asked me if I was a Medievalist I was quick to reply, “Well, I’m an English teacher.” Because, although through my studies I have found history and historical works incredibly interesting and important, I am not particularly drawn to this time period (well, at least not beyond wishing that I was Daenerys Targaryen, but that’s a story for another day…). Coming from this mindset, I knew that this event was going to be very different from anything I’d ever experienced, and I was excited to see where it took me.

All of our presentations turned out really well and elicited questions and positive responses from several attendees: three of which were undergraduates from Dartmouth and their professor, Dr. Tom Luxon. Our audience was attentive and inquisitive, challenging us all. Sam said, “Having Tom Luxon sit right across from me and stare me down during my reading was intimidating, but a challenge I was willing to take on!” Perhaps the best part of the presentation was that it gave me a sense of life in English academia, and also provided me with the opportunity to share my work with my peers by choice; rather than with my professor and peers for a grade. This distinction changes everything.

Molly: Presenting a paper I wrote at an academic conference was not only truly educational, but also gave my thoughts and opinions a validation I had never gotten to experience before. The whole event reminded me how glad I am that we have professors at this school who are willing to help us find, participate and thrive in these kind of opportunities.

Other key moments from Friday:

  • Delicious food (Italian and Thai)
  • A memorable reception with hors d’oeuvres and refreshments at the president’s house.
  • Molly tried Thai food for the first time—ever—and loved it!
  • I ate duck for the first time (sorry, Sam, it’s totally not my thing).
  • I had the most comfortable king size bed in the whole world all to myself.
  • Molly and I stayed up Friday night to make crowns fit for the occasion. Alas, they never would have survived the ride home.

On Saturday, we decided to separate and go to the sessions that appealed to each of us. In total we saw 8 panels: some of which were amazing (For those, I felt like I couldn’t write quickly enough or take enough notes), some merely average, and some terrible. The variety of work, both in topic and quality, was amazing. The breadth of work that I saw at the panels provided me with considerable context in which to place myself as an academic—in a sense, the forum validated my confidence in myself. By the end of the presentations, we all seemed to be in agreement about the breadth of the work presented.

Molly: The entire conference was incredibly informative in many different ways. Watching so many people present their papers and ideas in one day, really made me think about the way in which I, as a future educator, will teach my students about these sort of topics. The pop culture integration, the jokes, the anecdotes, the passion, as well the overall ways in which people presented, showed me what will keep your audience’s attention, and what may leave them doodling on their notepads. Knowing how to present your ideas in a dynamic and informative way is such a tremendous skill to have, and I felt like I was getting a sort of boot camp in the entire practice.

Sam: It was incredibly fun listening to all of the different papers, some great and some really terrible. The best, believe it or not, came from our sister school. Robert Kellerman of UMA had this amazing essay on Pericles and made me want to read the play!

After the panels, we were all exhausted; but we still had the keynote address by Coppelia Kahn, a founding member of Shakespearean studies. She presented a hypothesis on how Shakespeare became so popular in modern societies. A point that I thought was particularly noteworthy was that after Shakespeare’s death, his plays were ignored for 44 years, only to be revived by William Davenant. Thus, Davenant is responsible for Shakespeare’s preservation.
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Following the keynote presentation we headed to the medieval feast. The themed dinner was relaxing after a long day. Dinner boasted delicious herbed chicken, corn on the cob, diced potatoes, and much more. Aside from the corn, none of these foods were traditionally finger foods. Alas, for the sake of “historical accuracy” and role playing, we had to giggle our way through our meals with nothing but our hands as tools. Between that, the music, and the metal knights guarding the two food tables, I’m sure that the medieval feast will prove hard toforget!

In hindsight, the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State College was a developmentally significant event in my undergraduate career, and I hope that I’m able to attend more conferences in the future! I want to thank Eric and Misty for the chance to participate. Additionally, I want to thank all four of them (Eric, Misty, Molly, and Sam) for all of the great conversations and memories, as well a their support throughout the event. I’ve spoken to Molly and she also hopes to attend other conferences; she said, “I hope to attend more conferences in the future, although I doubt that any of them will ask me to eat chicken with my hands again—huzzah! for arguable historical choices (and wet wipes)!” Likewise, I’ve spoken to Sam and he wanted to add the following: “Above all else, it was a blast getting to know Tyler and Molly and having many intellectually stimulating conversations with Eric and Misty. It was a truly great experience and I was honored to be a part of it.”KeeneStateForumMedRenCollage

—Tyler M. Michaud

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  1. Spring Reception 2015 | UMF English Department Blog

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