Sometimes it is impossible to learn anything from a conference. Generally all I do is agree, disagree or let my mind wander. Usually my best conference experiences are food-related. But thankfully I actually did learn some things about (gasp!) the early modern period, among others at this conference. In no apparent order they are:
1. We need to use our imaginations more, but this doesn't necessarily mean that we have to stop talking about real material things, just that we have to stop thinking about trying to find them and then find them again (I think).
-Mary Bly's delightful and provocative plenary talk.
2. Descartes may have traveled around Europe with a life-size automaton made to resemble his dead daughter, Francine.
-Wendy Hyman's talk for the brilliant "Shakespeare and Technology" roundtable panel, the sleeper hit of the whole conference.
3. Waterwheels shaped the way early modern London sounded and felt.
-Jonathan Sawday's talk for the same panel.
4. "Petard" was not simply an early modern bomb (see fig. 1 above), it also meant a fart.
5. If Ania Loomba is right (and she frequently is), we still haven't connected colonialism, the mercantile economy, race studies and East and West enough. I keep finding this difficult to believe though, especially because I thought Amanda Bailey's careful and elegant plenary paper did just that. Also: why isn't anyone writing about the sugar trade in Cyprus?
6. People ate mummies (which technically I knew already from David Read's seminar work at last year's SAA but had conveniently forgotten only to be surprised by it again).
7. Stanley Kubrick's first film Fear and Desire appears to brilliantly rework bits of The Tempest, but since it is nearly impossible to see one of the two remaining copies we just had to take Richard Rambuss' word for it.
8. Early modern publics are small, numerous, material and virtual. They self-destruct when they start kicking people out. They can also be eloquently described with Venn diagrams. This lead me to hypothesize that every time an early modern public spontaneously combusts, five others are born. Clap your hands if you believe in early modern publics! (I know I do).
-Steven Mulaney, Paul Yachnin and Katherine McKluskie's "Making Publics" panel
9. A large number of Dallas women may indeed be living proof of the third (or fourth) sex.
10. It is possible to fuse texan with japanese cuisine and produce delicious results, but only at considerable cost. On the other hand, Salvadoran cuisine fused with texmex is yummy and cheap. And apparently texmex itself is very, very cheesy.
11. Everyone has a Shakespeare Quarterly Revise-Resubmit-Reject sob story.
12. Downtown Dallas has a free vintage streetcar system and a gorgeous triplex of art museums yet remains strangely devoid of people. How can this be???
13. If you've blogged about something really cool but want it to remain anonymous, just say it was an MLA paper you gave- that conference is so huge that no one will know the difference. I thought this was a brilliant idea and am taking this to heart.
14. GEMCS is back!