Last week I felt like I was five steps behind, scrambling to catch up all the way. But it was fun all the same. The Medieval Congress in Leeds was much more fun than last year because it was packed with clever Australian medievalists. (‘Isn’t that an oxymoron?’ asked the London-born lass whose sofa I kipped on. No. And no.) There was also a whole day and a half devoted to medievalism of various times and forms, which was amazing, but I have to admit I skipped a couple on Tuesday and went to papers about medieval animals instead. According to an obscure Anglo-Saxon text, I learned during a paper on Anglo-Saxon whales in fact and fiction, at one point God became a Leviathan in order to fight the devil. Some of you might know why I think this is cool.
I also saw some lovely old friends, including Liz, who did the masters in York with me and I hadn’t seen since graduation. And I cycled home in the unseasonable English rain, and got completely drenched, twice.
The paper I think went better the second time. Some interesting points were raised in the questions that will help me if I want to make anything more out of it. I wish I didn’t stammer though. It wasn’t that bad, but a couple of times I’ve given virtually flawless presentations, and I wish that would happen every time. I’m just so bored of dealing with it that I’ve stopped adequately preparing for it. (If I read through the paper over and over and over again before I give it it’s usually smoother. Trouble with this one was I kept changing it so I didn’t have a chance.) I talked about it with a couple of people from the audience afterwards, and one of them asked me if it was stage fright. No. Nothing like that. Of course giving a presentation is more stressful than having a chat to someone, but I don’t get more nervous than anyone else. It’s just that the slightest hint of nerves (or sometimes excitement) somehow manages to break my words into little pieces.
At school, if I ever had to give a presentation, I would dread it for weeks. It’s not like that any more. I really don’t mind. And it’s not like people can’t deal with listening to a minor stammer – I still get my point across. But – I do feel sort of raw and broken afterwards, as though I’ve cracked open and everyone can see inside.
Anyway, loads of people told me they liked the paper – and I don’t think they were just being kind! The poems I was talking about are themselves pretty impressive, so it was fun to share them with people.
I’m back in Norway now, and looking forward to working full-pelt on my thesis tomorrow. After the conferences I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, awash with possibility.