On Being a Duck among Horses

Some backstory, explaining the title of this post: I was in the cafeteria at Western Michigan University, the college that hosts the annual Medieval Conference at Kalamazoo, eating a particularly bad lunch of noodles and Swedish meatballs. But the school lunch food was tolerable, and what made it even more tolerable was the conversation I was having with people I’d never met before — a Spanish teacher, an Old French teacher, and a high school English teacher. It K’Zoo was old hat for the Old French teacher, but for the Spanish and high school English teacher, 2005 was the first Medieval Conference at K’Zoo that they’d ever been to. I mentioned that this was my third year, and the high school English teacher asked if I had ever presented anything, to which I replied,

“Well, no. But it’s because I’m kinda weird. I’m not a medievalist, actually. I’m actually an Americanist, 20th century in fact, and coming here I tend to feel like a duck surrounded by horses; I mean, I’m not even *close* to being a medievalist, although I can pretend real good, as if my quack sounds vaguely, um, neigh-ish.”

And Darren, the high school English teacher who *must* have worn long sleeves to cover up all of his tattoos and removed all of his face and ear-rings that adorn his head, snorted — I made him laugh that much.

Actually, this year, I found a place where a duck like me sort of belonged — in the sessions covering “medievalism,” which is the study of representations of the Middle Ages *after* the Middle Ages. In two sessions that I went to, I heard papers from an Americanist exploring the neo-Anglo-Saxonism of Walt Whitman’s poetry, a Victorian art historian tracking the evolving pop cultural image of Chaucer, a philosophy grad student comparing the X-Men with Augustinian demonology, and a film studies person comparing the recent movie _King Arthur_ with American movie and TV westerns. This crossing between continents, time periods, and disciplines made a person like me, who is comparing O’Connor’s 20th century fiction with medieval drama in her dissertation, go “Oooo! Is *that* what I’m doing? Exploring medievalism in O’Connor? And there are *sessions* at K’Zoo for just that thing? Keen!”

And so, for the first time ever, this duck found, well, fellow ducks who can also speak horse. And, yea verily, it was cool. I even thought of a conference paper topic on medievalism and the movies, inspired after seeing _Kingdom of Heaven_ and hearing the Bunny just *rip* it a new one –she was foaming at the mouth, folks, honestly. So, yet again, another project awaits me as well as the Great Diss and other things. K’Zoo is wunderbar that way — inspiring me to get into rich avenues of scholarship, to exercise the ol’ scholarly muscles.

Even if they are duck muscles.

Well, off to bed I go — much grading and then working in my college’s graduation ceremony tomorrow (where I was “volunteered” — weeee!).

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