Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pat Conner Honored at Kalamazoo

Those interested in the goings-on in Colson Hall may be interested to know that I recently returned from the big medieval conference at Kalamazoo, where I was delighted to participate in a series of panels honoring our recently retired colleague Pat Conner. He was feted with all due ceremony and hilarity (including the presentation of a Pat Conner action figure, complete with grey hair, mustache, and tall buff body), and a stellar series of speakers. Pat was rightly remembered for his signature contributions to the paleographical and contextual study of the Exeter Book (which is surely the most remarkable manuscript collection of vernacular verse to survive from any Eurpoean tradition before 1000), as well as for having been perhaps the most important motivating figure in bringing digital scholarship to Old English Studies, both through ANSAX-NET (an early and still thriving listserv focused on matters Anglo-Saxon) and through his groundbreaking Beowulf Workstation. Either contribution alone would have marked him as having had a significant impact on the field.

All of the Pat Conner panels were extremely well attended, literally standing room only in two cases (and it would have been three, but one panel was fortunately held in a very large area). Besides my own small contribution (a paper using metrical analysis to offer a bit of additional confirmation for Pat’s theory about the tripartite structure of the Exeter Book), there were papers presented from a raft of stars in the field, including the following:

Michelle Brown, former Keeper of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, speaking on depictions of facial hair in Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination.

Kevin Kiernan, perhaps the world’s leading expert on the Beowulf manuscript, speaking on The Electronic Beowulf, which included a nod to Pat’s groundbreaking Beowulf Workstation.

Elaine Treharne, from Florida State, with a fascinating paper on Exeter guild documents, which both responded to Pat’s work on Exeter guilds and argued for the reinterpretation of a whole genre of texts which have always been seen as manumissions but may more properly be understood as guild memoranda.

Tom Hill, of Cornell Univeristy, on The Wanderer, a paper which noted that The Wanderer very likely includes the first recorded account of a Germanic homage ritual, making that Exeter poem of exceptional historic, as well as literary, significance.

Papers by Timothy Graham, Susan Deskis, Donald Scragg, and Carol Farr rounded out the panels nicely, and the sessions as a whole were a beautiful international tribute to Pat, who has been friend, mentor, and inspiration to more than one generation of students and scholars. And as even this summary of papers presented suggests, Pat’s work continues to be influential, which will surely extend Pat’s influence to a further generation as well.

It was a great experience all around, and a wonderful tribute to Pat from his friends and colleagues from here and abroad.

No comments:

Post a Comment