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ISAS 2001: Helsinki


Professor Matti Kilpiö hosted the Tenth Biennial Meeting of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists at the University of Helsinki, Finland, on August 6-11, 2001. Some nineteen sessions featured forty-seven speakers, many addressing the conference theme of Anglo-Saxons and the North, in addition to project reports and demonstrations and a poster session. Joseph Harris delivered a keynote address on "North-Sea Elegy and Para-Literary History," while Roberta Frank gave a special lecture entitled "No Heroics, Please: We're Viking Age Skalds" and Martin Carver gave another on "The Early Pictish Monastery at Portmahomack, Easter Ross: Columba, Northumbria, and the Conversion of the Picts." A session on the cross in Anglo-Saxon culture was held in the Temppeliaukio Church, a downtown church carved into a small hill of granite which is itself a tourist destination, while an excursion took conference participants to the Church of the Holy Cross at Hattula, with an impressive array of surviving medieval wall paintings, Hämeenlinna Castle, and the Riihimäki Glass Museum. The Helsinki University Library mounted an exhibition of its medieval musical manuscripts relating to Britain, Scandinavia, and Finland, Ex Insula Lux, and the National Museum of Finland presented an exhibition of Anglo-Saxon and related coins. The closing conference dinner was a spectacular affair in the crypt of the Cathedral, where conference members were entranced by a performance of traditional Finnish folk music.

Unusually, this conference continued for many of its participants at a second site with a continuation at St. Petersburg. Here conference participants first went on one of two excursions, either a panaromic city tour with a visit to the Hermitage Museum or a trip to the medieval city of Novgorod. The conference continued on August 13, 2002, with a one-day symposium, "Anglo-Saxon Studies in Russia," hosted by the Department of English Philology and Translation and its head, Prof. Victor I. Shadrin, and held at the Faculty of Philology, St. Petersburg State University. The symposium featured an overview of Anglo-Saxon studies in Russia by Prof. L.P. Chakhoyan, delivered by Igor K. Arkhipov, followed by six brief papers by Russian scholars. Participants also got to view a range of Anglo-Saxon and related manuscripts on display at the National Library of Russia in relation to the exhibition, Ex Insula Lux.

The Advisory Board met at the conference to select new officers and board members and to consider the business of the society. In a wide-ranging discussion, the group discussed democratizing the organization of the society, pursuing a marketing plan, and publication possibilities. The board agreed to present a constitutional amendment concerning the election of officers to the membership, to experiment with publication of a volume arising from the present conference, which will be edited by Matti Kilpiö with the assistance of an editorial committee, and to encourage further discussion about the society. To this end an e-mail listserv has been set up for further discussion by board members, while roundtable discussions have been scheduled for the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo and the International Medieval Congress at Leeds.

Effective January 1, 2002, the officers of ISAS are:

President:Robert E. Bjork (Arizona State Univ.)

First Vice President:Hans Sauer (Univ. München)

Second Vice President: Elaine M. Treharne (Univ. of Leicester)

Executive Director: David F. Johnson (Florida State Univ.)

Advisory Board:

Lesley Abrams (Oxford Univ.)

Mechthild Gretsch (Univ. Göttingen)

Nicholas Howe (Ohio State Univ.)

Leena Kahlas-Tarkka (Univ. of Helsinki)

Catherine Karkov (Miami Univ.)

Simon Keynes (Trinity College, Cambridge)

Roy Liuzza (Tulane Univ.)

John Niles (Univ. of Wisconsin)

éamonn Ó Carragain (National Univ. of Ireland)

Antonette diPaolo Healey (Dictionary of Old English)

Michael Lapidge (Anglo-Saxon England)

Jonathan Wilcox (Old English Newsletter)

Advisors whose terms end December 31, 2001, are Hugh Magennis, Katalin Halacsy Scholz, and Elaine Treharne.

The 2003 ISAS meeting will take place on August 4-9, 2003, at Chaparral Suites Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona, hosted by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies of Arizona State University. The conference theme will be Conversion and Colonization, although papers on any aspect of Anglo-Saxon studies will also be considered. Abstracts for papers should be submitted by October 15, 2002. For further information, see the website at http://www.asu.edu/clas/acmrs/ISAS_2003.htm, or contact:

Prof. Robert E. Bjork

Director, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ 85287-2301


e-mail: robert.bjork@asu.edu

fax: 480-965-1681

The 2005 ISAS meeting will be held at the University of Munich, hosted by the Faculty of Language and Literature and the Department of English and American. The likely conference theme is England and the Continent. For preliminary information, contact:

Prof. Hans Sauer

Institüt für englische Philologie

Universität München

Schellingstrasse 3

D-80799 München


e-mail: Hans.Sauer@anglistik.uni-muenchen.de

To join ISAS send dues ($15 US or £10 sterling; $10 or £7 for students) to the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, along with professional name, title, e-mail, and correct address (no more than six lines) to:

Prof. David F. Johnson

Executive Director, ISAS

Dept. of English

Florida State Univ.

Tallahassee, FL 32306


e-mail: djohnson@english.fsu.edu

For further details about ISAS, visit the association's website at http://www.isas.us.

[The photographic record on pp. 12-13 is omitted in this online report]


A Chant-Fable of Helsinki (and east toward the Amber-glazen Plains)

The Bard of Salwarpe

The following account of ISAS 2001 has been uncovered by the Old English Newsletter. In its original, this chant-fable came with musical setting, here suppressed, which accounts for the variation in metrical form. While enigmatic, the account may serve to remind those who were present of the conference's proceedings and give a taste to any who missed it.

To the country of Finns and Helsinki's port repaired Anglo-Saxonists to make learned sport.

In halls of Porthania their lectures they sought, where tall kings from Arthur to Matti held court.

With a shrill tone of elegy across the wild brine the North Sea launched scholarship in accents so fine.

Becalmed in the Baltic, the bard did repine as fish choked the engines of the Silja Line.

To the furnishers of feeding to monarchs of Kent was brought a new reading of what their word meant.

A textual corpus of legal intent developed a vehicle for sharp punishment.

Then the strains of the Swedes and clergy coined tunes with Cavalier gentlemen for reading of runes.

Americ philanthropy indited statuesque boons to Brunanburh's victor and to Ethandune's.

Next the North Folk gave speech to both one and all in multiple mawtherings of both earl and thrall,

A-crossing the ocean in what "ash" they call, assigning whose causes proved a free-for-all.

Colleagues' map-reading skills, so some fainthearts fear, would not find a building both numbered and near,

But who round one corner would yet persevere might meet a Vice-Rector and mort of good cheer.

Getting Bible texts wrong in ludicrous ways called for pastoral discipline to order one's days,

And charting of martyrs with a dingbat displays a library-visitor's ninth-century craze.

Overlapping perspectives gave upon how the North-Sea-side peasant might shape with a plough,

And all the photography that pillared steps would allow saw national consciousness interred in a howe.

Connoisseurs of distant manuscripts and metrics praised Bede who first showed grammarians what rhythmic forms need,

Not slack were most Vikings to seek skaldic meed as runed and depicted in an eight-page screed.

A complete change of tune and also of tone by Gregorian singers in black habits was shown.

The theme was an instance of cultural loan: Finns took English manuscripts and saints for their own.

Those who don't lose their cards or miss City Square have the pleasure of meeting a Deputy Mayor.

Artistic comestibles form the bill of fare, and a language like English officiates there.

On a third blissful day of long-shining sun a trine expedition by coach was begun.

A limned church, a castle, and glassware were done, and a well-known penitent was late for the fun.

In a part rock-cut church where granite crags lour the Cross found devotion for more than an hour.

Deep down were heard rumblings where Nibelungs cower, and toponymous chairmanship supplanted Worm-Power.

On the following morn turned out in full force the ignorant English as foils for Old Norse.

In seventy-two languages Wulfstan was source, and Steblin-Kamenskij had run his life's course.

To the sesssions on scribes and coins never came this bard, but his skiving was quite void of blame:

He sought out a matter of family fame, the village of origin of his sister's name.

The poetics of the Kalevala helped one surmise how verse that alliterates might come to arise.

Less five types than word-associations seemed to comprise Germanic scops' stock-in-trade to Russulan eyes.

Innovations of form were posted apace as three or more subjects were broached in short space.

Articular syntax paralleled a question of place, if down-caves and brambles hid a love-goddess's face.

When it fixed the world's end to one Friday night the luck of the Irish gave good folk a fright.

The bard of the Salwarpe, with a blaze of overhead white, illumined all psalter-glosses in single light.

Now the Briton abroad, some foreigners think, is mostly a hooligan quite far gone in drink.

So the British Council, to broaden this link, plied jugfuls of apple-juice to help us all think.

In the hall where discerning folk of us were, most magic enhancements were made of Bayeux,

Or Helsinki's corpora in situ we might prefer after prosopography was left at two-thir.

Congregational terms begin Perjantai. "No sex please, we're gendered," Old English words cry.

"Reflexives ('impersonals') are set out on high, West saxon relations to Wycliffe to try.

Then a bog-thane so bold the views would declare of Norse archaeologists these past thirty year,

How the High God's coming to Gudme and Lejre before Christianity its path did prepare.

A Hungarian expert next would impart how multiple narratives expressed this in art.

Old dawn-goddess Easter gave world's years their start, as shining sea-kidney played its skaldic part.

Brother Edward was told in tones of scant trust how up-country women occasion disgust.

The saint with the cormorants was by Ælfric discussed, and poor old Tiburtius was martyred for lust.

New emergence from ground where it lay long dark of what might be Columba's church of Picts made us hark,

But some archaeologist got up, for a lark, a cow-metatarsal-manufacturing park.

No device that Aquinas offfered was spared reconstructing emotions of saints if we dared,

Then grades of reginal nostalgia were aired by a voice to the microphone somewhat impaired.

In a crypt underneath a Lutheran dome the conference dinnner found a rare home;

Hung larger than life in the candlelit gloam face of Bee, Wolf, and child out of many a tome.

But the music of the kantele, and wild voices shrill, both ancient and recent, were what most made us thrill.

To set this in being Matti showed more sides of his skill, corralling his relatives our wants to fulfil.

Though the party broke up the revels went on when small groups to hideaways of night-clubs had gone.

The bard, lapping cloudberry, his numbers did con: two Mattis, two Heikkinens, we three hangers-on.

O ineffable morn! Unnumbered delight! For portents brontologous rend garments of night,

And learned parentheses on Beowulf's might knock out some hypotheses of oralists quite.

Next an alphabet soup to suit every taste; the DEF Chronicles were much interlaced.

Rædgota (.i. Rædgar) had (not?) laid Rome waste; and at AGM ISAS its destinies faced.

Yet another new feat this congress could claim: an excursus the feral Varangians to tame.

Brave souls eighty-seven on the Repin came. (The Petersburg Fragment would list them by name.)

Pulkovskaya's pile advertisement wins improving on Helsinki's for hotels built by Finns,

Albeit the tour guide had been, for her sins, enmeshed in confusion of parallel inns.

Came the day of our rest; not restful its mode, as some went to Novgorod, six hours on the road.

Us sights of St Petersburg our nearer guides showed and at breakneck speed through treasures of the Hermitage towed.

During supper that night the meal was enhanced by a song-troupe whose glitt'ring coats with primal hues glanced.

As merriment grew, they out among the tables advanced to see with what skill tall Bavarians danced.

Last, our day to survey the scholarly scene as set by the well-moustached Professor Shadrin.

The programme toward the "synthetic" did lean ('tis Steblin-Kamenskij's mode of fiction I mean).

The first speaker took, true, ten minutes exact to find in the modern tongue much Old English fact.

Successive discourses such time-control lacked: their pragmatic entities were too richly packed.

From the lips of a gnarled philologist fall not typed text but argument, right there in the hall,

What parts of lost epics we yet might recall. His was the best paper, and longest of all.

A late-coffee-filled bard's acquaintance did gain one straight up from Crimea, two day's ride by train.

He too was a fiction, for though he took pain with his teacher's paper, his did not remain.

The first Vikings struck the Russians as people who row. A promised depicter of coins did not show.

A too abstract judgement was rude to case law. Divine-voiced Svetlana the last held the floor.

A distinctly large lunch augmented the queues which seemed to be normal for staff-student loos.

There followed a bus-trip which none could refuse to seek a Bede manuscript which Bede's hand did use.

There that saying was proved: The first shall be first. The last shall be nowhere ("Depart, ye accursed").

The National Library its act had rehearsed for just half the numbers that in with us burst.

A wild goose-chase ensued for errant Nick Doane who confounded our numberers, he went on his own.

The put-upon guide into a rainswept panic was thrown till delivered from bondage by her mobile 'phone.

In philologists' halls new revelries start our systems to fortify ere we must depart.

Three Finns were presented with medals so smart, and a bass and Svetlana sang songs from the heart.

Tall Matti's medallion caused him some pain, like an unruly property out of Walewein

No sooner presented than flown off to unknown terrain. The bard does not know if he will see it again.

Up at five the next morning to seek their fate were the ISAS delegates on the final date.

The librarian of barristers made two coachloads wait by reaching the rendez-vous some five minutes late.

On the train back, grim torpor long did prevail till broken by a twelve-year-old archaeologist's tale.

The breakfast-bags and the boxes packed for lunch never fail, though ein' kleine vogel spies a rat by its tail.

As these doings recede the bard bids Godspeed.

Further verse we'll defer to some other year.