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Sunday, August 18, 2019 - 09:39

Let's see, where was I? Ah yes, up to dinner time on Friday with no definite plans. I was reminded at that point that I had a loose date to meet people for ice cream at Murphy's after dinner-ish, so I got a bite of something more substantial at a cafe across the street from the ice cream shop then joined an amorphously shifting group in the back of Murphy's for chatting and ice cream. I was thinking about heading back to the convention center afterwards and seeing if my noise levels were up to hanging out in the official con bar for a bit, but I ended up walking back that way with Sarah Pinsker who was going to wait at the bar at Spencer's Hotel for a companion to finish paneling and when we went in there I bumped into Chaz and Karen which resulted in one of those introductions-by-first-names-followed-by-delayed-oh-that-Sarah/Chaz/Karen. I got introduced to a couple of Chaz's friend's but the noise level was high enough that I bugged out fairly soon.

Saturday I was thinking about trying to make one of the 10am panels but then was reminded that my hotel room came with a complimentary breakfast buffet so by the time I'd finished and got to the center, it was too late for that. There was also no point in trying to get down to The Point for the main WSFS business meeting session since I had to be back and the convention center to be on a noon panel, so I did some additional wandering around the dealer's room and displays. The noon panel was Building the SFF Community Online which was a lively discussion of the logistics and realities of trying to create vibrant, inclusive community spaces in different types of online social venues.

Bumped into @fromankyra on my way to find an ATM and made the trek together and decided to put together a small Hugo-watching group for Sunday (including identifying who would be the line-stander to get our crowd control wrist-bands). Stood on line for the panel Into the Woods, partly because it was about forests in fiction and partly because the set of panelists guaranteed an entertaining time. Herewith I reproduce my stream-of-consciousess twitter notes:

Everyone who is not at the Into the Woods panel is missing a hilarious discussion of how nature will kill us. Also: cat-sized preying mantises. Now we are moving from flaming eucalyptus tress to the tarantula migration of Mt. Diablo. Moving on from truth to fiction: forests as a setting for fictoin, the "dangerous forets", woods as a source of cultural mateirals, and what does the forest thing about this? Cultural differences: the forest as refuge ad nurturing safe haven Forest as part of Nature as Other. Hedgerows as domesticated mini-forests. Supposedly "wild" forests as cultivated resources. How differences between European and American forests affected transferred forest myths in folklore. Aggressive houseplants (i.e., aggressive to each other). Why do roses have thorns? To climb on top of other plants and out-compete them. Panel asked about favorit plants in fiction. Triffids. Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Edelwood (sp?) trees in Over the Garden Wall. Winnie the Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood. Little Shop of Horrors. Now we're on to mushrooms and debates over the scope of the panel. Are mushrooms forest plants? Mushroom hyphae networks transporting nutrients over miles. The ethics of carnivorous plants. What type of plant would each of the panelists be? Moss (Sarah Gailey), Yew Tree (Jennifer Mace), Oak tree (Sue Burke), alien plant invasion (Seanan McGuire), Fig tree (Navah Wolfe). The explanations are more entertaining than the bare list, but too hard to write down. And that's all!

The File 770 dinner was next. Large-group dinner parties in loud echoey restaurants aren't my favorite thing (especially because there's no guarantee that you'll have conversational interests in common with your neighbors) but I enjoy being part of "the group".

After that, back to the convention center for  two more panels, neither of which required waiting in lines. Authors and Social Media: Friends or Foes? (Fairly basic ettiquette guidelines.) Then, Send in the Crones: Older Women in SFF. Interesting cultural differences in that it was primarily British panelists and I recognized very few of the recommended examples. I hope someone tracked all the recommendations, but I couldn't have kept up.

Sunday I did the breakfast buffet again with my roommate Mary Kay Kare then headed over way too early for my 10am signing session. First thing Sunday morning isn't exactly a prime time for traffic for that sort of thing and I think a couple of the authors didn't have anyone come by. I had three or four people, which might not seem like much, but I sold 5 of the 6 Alpennia books I'd brought, gave away a copy of "The Mazarinette and the Musketeer", and recorded my first "audio post card" for  the podcast. So, not bad.

I was even able to make a panel in the next session: Fantasy: Beyond Europe -- which resulted in adding a new book to my TBR while sitting there in the audience. (The hazards of the ease of buying ebooks!) After the panel I bumped into Liz Burke in the midst of a small group of prime opportunities for my audio post card project, including most of the cast of the Be the Serpent podcast. I now have enough recordings for a short episode, with a few more promised, so I can relax about collecting more. I dropped by the end of Aliette de Bodard's kaffee klatsch (which I hadn't been able to get on the list for) and was able to get my copy of her newest book signed. (I had to buy a hard copy because it isn't out in the USA yet, so I might as well get it signed!) Picked up some lunch in the cafe and bumped into Liz again. Then it was time to trek out to The Point so I could be there (ahead of schedule) for moderating Fan Podcasts, with Jonathan Strahan (Coode St Podcast), Alexandra Rowland (Be the Serpent), and Shaun Duke & Jen Zink (Skiffy and Fanty). We had a smallish audience but a great discussion.

And now I'm back in my hotel room to drop off my backpack, update the blog, and figure out what I'm doing for dinner since it's two hours before my seating group gets let into the auditorium for the Hugo event. Once more, I'm not too worried about not having fixed plans even if it means eating alone somewhere. I'm getting in quite a delightful amount of socializing and haven't had a single episode of "oh poor pitiful me all alone at the con." I even have tentative dinner plans for tomorrow evening. I am, however, starting to feel the cumulative con-exhaustion and can even be happy looking forward to going home again. But not yet.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019 - 07:00

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 37c - Bosom Sex (reprise) - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/08/17 - listen here)

[This podcast was originally broadcast as episode 4 on 2016/11/26]

For scheduling reasons, I wanted to fill this week's show with a reprise of one of my early podcasts. And when I thought about it, the perfect choice was this show about two Civil War era black women that I mentioned during the interview with Penny Mickelbury last week.

If you've never listened to it before, I hope you enjoy it. And if you've been a follower of the podcast since those very first episodes, I hope you like it as much this time as you did the first time.

* * *

[Note: Spelling follows the original in all direct quotations from the correspondence.]

It’s rare to have access to the internal emotional lives of women in history. Personal correspondence can give us a glimpse of the complex and often contradictory thoughts of women whose lives diverged from expected paths. But it’s not uncommon for such correspondence to be lost after their deaths. Letters may simply be discarded as trash. Or family members may destroy them in order to protect the reputations of the dead. In American history, there is a similar difficulty in finding the self-told stories of the African-American community in its early years. So the correspondence of Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus is doubly valuable for the story it tells.

Addie and Rebecca were black women, both born in the mid 19th century as free women in Connecticut. Their correspondence comes from a time shortly after the end of the Civil War when Rebecca often spent time away. It was Rebecca’s family who preserved the letters, so the collection includes Addie’s letters to her and Rebecca’s letters to her family, but the content of what Rebecca wrote back to Addie needs to be interpolated.

Rebecca's family was solidly middle class and had lived in Connecticut for several generations. She trained as a schoolteacher. And because of that and her missionary enthusiasm, she traveled to the South after the Civil War was over to help establish a school for ex-slaves. She experienced (and wrote home about) serious racial hostility, both because of her vocation and in response to her personal behavior because she saw no reason to automatically defer to white people if they didn’t respect her back.

Addie was an orphan without Rebecca's extensive network of family ties and support. Her correspondence is less literate but full of enthusiasm, passion, and sensuality. She was an avid reader, had a forceful personality, and tended to be judgmental of others. She, too, lived in Connecticut, which was probably where the two met. She made a living in a number of different jobs: as a seamstress, as a domestic worker, in various factory jobs. Shortly before her early death at age 29, she worked as a teamster driving wagons. She was intolerant of racism and segregation and was unafraid to speak her mind to her white employers. This might possibly have something to do with the number of times she changed jobs during the course of the correspondence.

The romantic relationship between Addie and Rebecca appears in their letters in a number of ways. There were regular protestations of love and devotion, but they also spoke of passionate kisses and caressing each other’s breasts. The letters also give clear indications that their relationship was felt to be in competition with potential heterosexual relationships.

The mid 19th century is typically thought of as a time of “romantic friendships” and Boston Marriages. And much of the language that Addie and Rebecca use is similar in flavor. In fact, they discuss the white literary depiction of romantic friendship in their letters, comparing their devotion to that described in Grace Aguilar’s novel Women’s Friendships. Some historians such as Lillian Faderman take the position that these relationships were romantic but not physically erotic. Women might kiss, they might embrace, they might even share a bed without it being considered sexually improper or incompatible with heterosexuality.

Addie and Rebecca give us a closer look--one that may have been a more silent part of other romantic friendships. After all, if we didn’t have these letters, we wouldn’t know it was a part of theirs. In one letter, when Addie mentions that she shares a bed with another woman, she reassures Rebecca, “If you think that is my bosom that captivated the girl that made her want to sleep with me, she got sadly disapointed injoying it, for I had my back towards all night and my night dress was butten up so she could not get to my bosom." And she continues with a protestation that her bosom is reserved for Rebecca.

Rebecca must have regularly expressed jealousy of women that Addie shared living space with. Addie writes that she has no desire to be kissed by anyone else, saying, "No kisses is like youres." She also says, "I imprint several kisses upon your lips and give you a fond imbrace." And later: "I wish that I was going to sleep in your fond arms to night."

Interestingly, Rebecca’s family and their community appear to have recognized and supported the special nature of their relationship, although sometimes with ambivalence. On one occasion, when Addie visited Rebecca’s family while Rebecca was away in the south, she reports that Rebecca’s mother told another visitor that “if either one of us was a gent, we would marry.” Addie was quite happy to hear that. Addie felt comfortable talking about her physical longing for Rebecca to friends and family and that she wished for her embrace and her return.

Both women were also courted by men, and that provides a chance to see how they thought of the parallels with their own relationship. Addie writes, "O Rebecca, it seems I can see you now, casting those loving eyes at me. If you was a man, what would things come to? They would after come to something very quick." and later "What a pleasure it would be to me to address you My Husband." When Addie mentions a male suitor, she notes that although she loves him, it’s not passionately. On other occasions, when she mentions attractions to men, she always compares her feelings to those she has for Rebecca. At times, these mentions seem intended to provoke jealousy. Addie seems to have had fewer occasions to experience jealousy of Rebecca’s other connections, though she once writes, that she dreamed of seeing Rebecca caress another woman, and spoke of how bad it made her feel not to be the object of those caresses.

When Addie wrote more seriously about contemplating marriage to a man, it was in the context of economic security. On one occasion when asking Rebecca how she would feel about marriage for that reasons, she says, "Rebecca, if I could live with you or even be with you some parts of the day, I would never marry." But this was at a time when Rebecca was living elsewhere and the two were unlikely to be able to set up a household together.

Over the course of their correspondence, the language gradually shifted to calling themselves sisters, but even this is ambiguous. Addie sometimes signed her name using Rebecca’s surname. Addie did marry a man eventually, after flip-flopping several times, but died of tuberculoses two years later at the age of 29. At some point after that, Rebecca married. She married one of her co-workers at the school where she was teaching in Maryland. She survived to the age of 95.

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Friday, August 16, 2019 - 10:20

Let's see, where were we? Thursday was the first full day of the convention. I picked up my participant's packet and wandered around orienting myself to all the locations it would be useful to know about. (Since the numbering on the function rooms is cometimes ambiguous, this was not an idle task.) My first panel was "Dragons and Debutantes" on the topic of Regency fantasy (moderated by Mary Robinette Kowal, with me, Zen Cho, and Susan de Guardiola). The theory is that panel participants all meet up in the green room (actually just a part of the 5th floor lobby) to check in and confirm panel protocols. This is more often the exception than the rule, in my experience, but we all showed up then went off to the panel room together--where we had to get past a couple layers of staff trying to tell us that the panel was full and we couldn't go in. (It seems like Worldcons are more and more shifting into "queue for programming" mode. They're doing their best to organize and mitigate crowd control, but I know people find it disappointing when -- even on top of having to choose between competing program items -- they find they can't get into the ones they most wanted to see.) We had a lively discussion and only covered a fraction of the topics proposed for coverage. I need to takes some notes on unused topics for future suggestion.

I went to Kari Sperring's reading (having failed to do more than wave to her in passing at last year's Worldcon) and also signed up for her Kaffeeklatch today (Friday). Next up was the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) reception where I worked through my cocktail party anxiety by alternately buttonholing people about possible interviews on my podcast and identifying people who looked like they were having an even harder time socializing than me and chatting with them. Dinner arrangements were the opposite of anxiety-provoking since I'd been invited into a group going off to The Winding Stair, including people I already knew (e.g., Sarah Pinsker), and people who evidently knew me, and the rest people I now know. Always the best mix!

Dinner party

I finished off the evening with a small scotch tasting-and-conversation party with D. Libris, Mari Ness, and someone whose name is currently escaping me who has the most lovely azure hair.

Friday (today) started with Kari's Kaffeeklatch, nicely timed for a late breakfast. I've lost track of most of what we chatted about except for some bits of Arthurian fiction. Then I rushed over to the other con location (The Point) to participate in the first WSFS Business Meeting session. I've been trying to participate in the business meetings when I can, but I'm not going to be able to fit in the main business meeting tomorrow. Due to the distance, the offset scheduling, and the need to queue for programming, I decided to stay at The Point for the rest of the day and took in the art show as well as two panel discussions with the coincidentally intersecting theme of fiction based on European traditions. The first was on "Vikings" and the use of Norse traditions in fantasy. Lots of discussion of how popular perception is shaped by processed and second-hand versions of the source material, as well as issues of appropriation for political purposes (of various sorts) and Norse mythological roots as living traditions.

The second panel was "Refreshing European Epic Fantasy Tropes" which is a pretty broad topic. Discussion of the panelists' favorite and unfavorite tropes, how to inject novel themes into epic fantasy, why people gravitate to the same set of tropes time and again (both for historic reasons and psychological reasons).

And that brings me up to the present. I've been carrying around my little dictaphone recorder in hopes of getting up the nerve to see if I can get some "audio snapshots" from people for a Worldcon podcast, but it requires bumping into the right poeple in the right context (with the right acoustics) and so far it hasn't happened. I put out a tweet encouraging people to come to my signing and soliciting audio contributions there. It's possible that will be the best context, since presumably everyone who drops by will have opinions on relevant topics.

It's a little after 6pm and I don't have dinner plans lined up for tonight but I'm not stressing about it. I'm planning to draw up my moderator's notes for the panel I'm modding on Sunday (just so I have it done and out of the way) and then I'll figure out what to do.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 01:45

Wednesday was all about moving from vacation mode to Worldcon mode. Breakfast in my room, working on various computer housekeeping things, then the hike down three floors of stairs with my luggage to check out. By pure coincidence, I got to the Hilton check-in desk just as my roommate arrived from the airport. As expected we couldn't get into the room yet, but after dumping luggage we went over to the convention center to register. I then spent entirely too much time and wandering between venues to get my transit pass for the second half of the week. (In theory, you can add time to the one-week pass, but to do that I'd have had to wait until it was actually expired, so instead I bought a second one-week pass.) I'm probably not getting my money's worth out of the unlimited ride pass, but it's worth it to know I can just hop on and off the tram and not worry about fares.

By then, the room was availble. In getting settled in, I missed the message from my dinner companions (fromankyra and her father) that they were quite ready for food in advance of our scheduled time, so by the time I had the message and joined them they were hanging in a pub with Sara Uckelman. After a bit, we adjourned for a pub with dinner options up by Trinity College (location for reasons that ended up being not relevant) and spent about three hours chatting about linguistics, multilingualism, living in countries not your own, academia, SCA, and all sorts of other things that subsets of us had in common. I distributed presents of the Produce of My Estates and received (as pre-arranged) a box of genuine Turkish lokum in return.

After I got back to the hotel I decided to hang out in the lobby lounge on general principles and was soon joined by Carl Cipra and a friend of his. With the prompt, "So I picked up this book I want to send you--have you ever heard of Anne Lister?" I was off in full geek mode and we chatted about queer history and the difficulties of research for quite some time.

And now here it is: Thursday and the start of the convention. My first panel (Dragons and Debutantes, about Regency fantasy). Since I have a full evening social schedule, don't expect another update until tomorrow. (Whatever "tomorrow" means in the negotiation of timezones between us.)

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 02:17

Last time I was in Dublin, two years ago, I spent a very intensive day in the archaeology museum, taking lots of photos and careful notes on things of interest. This time I simply did a casual walk-through, enjoying the flow of the layout and organization. The individual item labels do well enough, and there are a small number of larger "context" explanations, but it would be great if they could do some mid-level interpretation. For example, when you have a display of textile tools, something the discusses overall use, how the different tools are used for different parts of the process, conjectural explanations of types of artifacts you'd expect as part of that process that are not among the finds for whatever reason. Another thing they do well is talk about the context of how, when, and where objects were found and the effects of prevaling attitudes toward historic artifacts (and toward history itself) on how the material was treated.

I never did bump into the other people I know who were planning to take in the archaeology museum yesterday, but given that it's an experience where you spend a lot of time in hyper-focus on only what's in front of you, that isn't entirely surprising.

The other item on my schedule was a trip up north of the city to Balbriggan for a pre-convention social gathering at Liz and Charlotte's house. A delightful evening with food, chatting, and comparing notes on sightseeing (and different attitudes towards what vacations were all about). It's a delightful house and now I can envision it when I see Liz posting things.

Today (Wednesday) is Transition Day. Time to leave the tiny hotel room in the Temple Bar district and move over to the Hilton Garden Inn near the convention center. Time to stand in line for an unknown period of time to register for the convention. Time to make sure I have notes gathered for my panel discussions. Time to make sure I've identified suitable excerpts for my readings. And the first of my set of Dinners With Internet Friends that have been filling up my calendar. I will proabably also endeavor to identify the congenial-to-me evening gathering place(s).

Worldcon is about to start in earnest!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - 07:00

Although it's a motif that needs to be used sparingly, I enjoy the times when I can show the same event or interaction from different points of view. In Mother of Souls we see Serafina shopping for a small statue of Saint Mauriz to give Celeste as a parting gift. It's an expensive keepsake: more than Serafina can afford to spend and more valuable than anything else Celeste owns (though this aspect is only hinted at). From Serafina's viewpoint, we see her trading the pearl necklace she was given as a parting gift from a lover for the intricate carving that she gives in turn as a parting gift to her...student? Friend? Surrogate daughter? They're still working out what they mean to each other when Serafina feels she has no other options than to return to Rome. We see only the briefest glimpse of Celeste's response.

In Floodtide we are allowed to see that other side.

* * *

I’d thought to find Celeste lying in bed, so when I didn’t see her there I wondered if she’d slipped out during the morning while we were working. Then I heard a catch of breath and saw she was sitting on the floor up against the wall next to the erteskir where she kept her candles and charms.

She was holding something in her lap. I couldn’t quite make it out in the dim light until she set it gently on top of the erteskir and scrambled to her feet. It was a little carved statue of Saint Mauriz. A fancy one—the sort you might expect to see on a table at Tiporsel House. Maisetra Sovitre had a lovely statue of her name saint in her bedroom, along with a gilt crucifix and a Madonna painting.

“That’s beautiful!” I said, touching the base to turn it so I could see better. The saint was carved out of some sort of dark wood—darker even than Mefro Dominique’s skin—and his halo shone like it was real gold. I wondered where Celeste had gotten something that nice. The answer came when she threw her arms around me and wept.

“She’s gone. She’s gone to Rome and she’s never coming back.”

So I knew Maisetra Talarico had been here and given her the saint as a farewell present. I don’t think I’d ever seen Celeste cry before. I’d seen her mad or sad, but not like this. She’d dried enough of my tears over the last year, so I held her as tight as I could without saying anything. At last she moved a bit and we sat on the edge of the bed, side by side.

“Why did she have to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” There was still a little catch in Celeste’s voice. “It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing I could have done.”

I thought about putting my arm around her shoulders again and got a funny feeling in my stomach, but that moment had passed, so I pointed at the little statue on the table of the erteskir. “You’ll have that to remember her.”

She leaned over and picked the statue up and handed it to me. I was real careful, holding it only by the base. I could see the details now even though the lamps weren’t lit during the day. Ebony, I thought, because in Maisetra Iulien’s stories things were always carved from ebony. You could see the features of Saint Mauriz’s face and the tiny tight curls of his hair. Bits of it were painted, but his armor was laid over the wood in thin metal plates. I couldn’t guess whether it was tin or silver, but I decided it should be silver. And the halo was real gold—or at least silver-gilt, like in the stories. It was much too fine a thing for a dressmaker’s shop. It wasn’t the sort of gift you gave someone you were just friends with.

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Monday, August 12, 2019 - 13:17

Today was the only pre-booked tour on my schedule. Some friends were going on a bus toor to Tara and Newgrange and I took the opportunity to tag along. Tara is the sort of site where you need some deep background to understand what you're seeing. The tour guide did a great job of sketching in the background in the available time, but I suspect for many of the tour members it was simply a big hill with a bunch of bumps on it. The tour was enjoyable, but there was a certain sense of being processed through a tourism machine.

Newgrange stands more by itself in terms of impressiveness. As it stands today, with the exterior stonework revealed, you can still visualize how it lay concealed as an ordinary hill for most of its lifetime. There's still a sense of being efficiently ushered through An Experience, but when you file through the narrow passage into the tomb's interior, the physicality is still there in a way that Tara can't provide.

Although I took some closer pictures, I think I like this one best, looking across the Boyne with the mound of Newgrange at the top of the horizon.

Newgrange seen across the Boyne

In preparing this blog, I have become immensely frustrated with changes to how my Apple products are managing my photos. For some reason, I can't AirDrop photos from my phone to my laptop any more. It was working as expected two months ago. The iPhone has also changed the default format for saving images from jpeg to something more annoying and I had to do some research to find out what had happened and how to change it back. Although the movies claim to be saved in QuickTime, they then claim to be incompatible with QuickTime and I haven't yet found a way to play them. At the moment, the only way I seem to be able to move my photos onto my laptop as jpegs is to email them to myself. Painfully. In small batches that won't choke my server.

Presumably if I were willing to process all my images through the Photos app, this wouldn't be an issue. But I've had annoying problems with trying to extract them from Photos to do anything else with them. And I still remember Apple dropping support for iPhoto leaving all my carefully-organized albums and edited images lost in the ether. I've become very distrustful of leaning on Apple's operating systems to manage my media, but they're doing their best to make it hard to use anything else. I have no idea what their long-term strategy is, and if I knew, I probably wouldn't like it any better.


There ended up being six of us on the tour connected through the overlapping SCA-fandom-medievalist network. (Omitting names because some of them are selective about which identities they employ in social media.) After we got back to Dublin, we finished the day with dinner at Le Bon Crubeen where I again had an excellent lamb dish. I seem to have inadvertently started a Dublin Local Lamb Tour. There are worse ways to live. Two more days before the start of the convention proper and my social media is abuzz with people at airports. Time to store up my sleep now!

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Monday, August 12, 2019 - 07:00

I found this a rather frustrating article within the context of a collection supposedly focusing on women. Because it makes the women’s single status all about how they serve as “currency” in the male establishment of prowess and reputation. I mean, it’s a valid observation about chivalric literature, but I wish space had been given to an article that focused more on women. Goodness knows there are interesting things to be said about singlewomen in chivalric literature who have agency within their own stories.

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Full citation: 

Armstrong, Dorsey. 2003. “Gender, Marriage, and Knighthood: Single Ladies in Malory” in The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation, ed. by Laurel Amtower and Dorothea Kehler. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe. ISBN 0-06698-306-6

Publication summary: 

A collection of articles on the general topic of how single women are represented in history and literature in medieval and early modern England. Not all of the articles are clearly relevant to the LHMP but I have included all the contents.

Gender, Marriage and Knighthood

This paper begins by looking at the function of single men in chivalric literature as being free to pursue courtly love and service to all women only by not being bound to a specific woman. But the single woman--the one who requires rescuing because she has no man to act for her--is what makes the male character’s reputation possible. The paper discusses how their performance of gendered acts and relationships creates gender concepts in chivalric literature, relying on the contrast of “active man” and “passive woman.” This paper does not address singlewomen as independent actors, but as filling a role within the male/female social economy.

Time period: 
Sunday, August 11, 2019 - 12:05

(This post is stitched together from various facebook postings throughout the day.)

My "rest day" was restful in the sense that I didn't have anything in particular I was committed to accomplishing. It started with an excellent night's sleep. (Maybe readers are bored with me talking about my sleep habits, but between my usual sleep issues and coming off jet lag, the topic is highly relevant to me.) 

Continuing my culinary tour of Dublin, I had a chance to read through the convention dining guide. Not a “complete list of nearby eateries” but more of a “foodies’ guide to Dublin.” Thanks to the recommendations, I had breakfast at Bewley’s, where I finally sampled the “traditional Irish breakfast” complete with black and white pudding, bacon (more like ham) and sausage, eggs, tomatoes and brown bread. Their version is quite delightful. (It didn't include the baked beans that seem to be a required element elsewhere, but I was ok with that.) Having passed the pastry display on the way in, I was tempted to add a scone or danish to the meal but it would have been too much. I'll go back some other time.

Bewley's has quite a history and is a gorgeous building. I particularly enjoyed my view of a large stained glass window based on a Jim Fitzpatrick design. (Since the linked website features a picture of said window, I won't add my own photo.) Fitzpatrick is one of the featured artists at Worldcon this year. When I was looking him up on Wikipedia to check something, I realized I hadn’t known he also created the famous image of Che Guevara that you see everywhere.

After that, I capitulated to curiosity and decided to check out the Dublinia Viking and medieval museum. Not being in a hurry, I did one of my favorite things in an old European city and simply aimed in the right direction and started wandering. One of the things I love about walking around cities like Dublin is soaking in the random and ad hoc nature of the city layout. The winding narrow lanes, unexpected stairs, archways that are portals to functions left behind. The way streets dodge around buildings and markets that have left their names and footprints while the city moved on. It’s never truly random, of course. Such cities have a logic and meaning woven through them that must be deciphered. While I love museums and guidebooks, one of my favorite activities while on tour is simply walking and wandering. (And, of course, I save up the memory for when I need to evoke this sort of layout and atmosphere in my historic writing.)

When I was here in Dublin two years ago, I took in the "serious" museums. (I spent an entire day in the National Museum of Archaeology.) But since one of my writing-related research interests is Viking-era Dublin, I thought it might be fun to see what they'd done. Dublinia is...quite good for what it is. Clearly aimed at the schoolchild level of interaction but not entirely oversimplified. Several re-enactors were presenting crafts and information. Obviously if you have to make a choice, go to the National Museum instead, but Dublinia was fun. I finished with the climb up the tower which gives a good view of the skyline, as well as the best view of the Viking house floor plan marker that's part of a trail of artifact markers around the Wood Quay excavation site.)

Outline of Viking house

After that, I thought about maybe checking out the "real" archaeology museum again, but at that point there were only a couple of hours left before it closed, so I took a leisurely random walk past Saint Patrick's cathedral (bells ringing!) then sufficiently in the direction of Saint Stephen's Green that I came out where I intended. Wandered through the park and then checked out the museum gift shop to see if they had anything intersting I hadn't bought last time. They still had some of the volumes from the Wood Quay excavation reports (though they said pretty much what was on display was all that was left--everything else was long out of print) and I picked up a couple that might be useful for deep background.

I dithered a bit over whether to find a place for an early dinner or take the books back to my room first. The decision was made when I was passing by the Millstone restaurant and glanced that their menu. I'd been looking for a plce to try some local lamb and they had a "lamb trio" entree that looked like it would hit the spot. Reader: it was delicious.

The food presentation was very much on the upscale side but the dishes deserved it every step of the way. The lamb trio was a mini rack (2 ribs), a bit of tenderloin, and a roll of lamb belly that had been slow-cooked to the dissolving point then crisped up. The other two items were cooked to order as pink. The plate was decorated with a mildly acidic mint sauce with a thick brown gravy served on the side. The nod to vegetables was a small mound of potatoes and what may have been carrot purée. Everything was delicious and all in different directions. I had a Bulmer's cider with it which, as I’ve noted before, is very light and on the dry side, making a good dinner accompaniment.

Having enjoyed the main course that much, I said yes to dessert. Cointreau creme brûlée with espresso. (I hope I don’t regret the caffeine but it isn’t even 6pm yet.) Again, delicious, with a nice sugar crust and you can clearly taste the Cointreau. Garnished with raspberry purée, half strawberries, and an unidentifiable orange object (mild, very slightly acidic, many tiny seeds--the leaves are attached but dried out while the fruit is fresh) which facebook commenters identified as a ground-cherry. (If we're friends on facebook, I have dinner pix there.)

And that brings us up to date. I'm just going to chill in my room for the rest of the evening. I contemplated taking advantage of my location in the middle of the pub-and-live-music quarter, but although going to a pub to listen to music with friends would be enjoyable, I'm less interested in doing it on my own in a crowd of strangers. (Dining alone is entirely different. I'm very good company for mysefl.) Tomorrow is Newgrange!

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Saturday, August 10, 2019 - 11:19

I’ve given up on the idea that I can plan where to eat breakfast. The lovely place I ate on Friday opens much later on weekends. The recommended bakery has yet to be open any time I drop by, despite it being within advertised hours. So my strategy will simply be to wander until I see a likely looking place that’s open.

I took the train that got me in to Waterford around noon, with the last return train leaving at 18:30. That was plenty of time to see the things I wanted to see, plus time to sit at the river’s edge with a sandwich when I didn’t want to walk any more.

I went to three museums: the Viking museum in Reginald’s Tower, the medieval museum, and the Bishop’s Palace museum which was primarily Georgian and later material, including a focus on the crystal industry. 

Overall the displays include a wealth of surviving legal documents illustrating historic themes (including a medieval legal compilation that includes a large number of illustrated figures I’ve never seen reproduced in works on Irish costume history). The number of other material artifacts is small, though representative. The interpretation is good. And they have a fondness for dioramas of the town at various points in history.

Overall, while they did good work at presenting Waterford, it was a little disappointing in terms of new types of material for the relevant eras. And no good finds in the museum bookstore, alas. There was a large glossy catalog covering pretty much all the significant artifacts, but see previous comment.

The most impressive experience was the guided tour of the Bishop’s Palace, presented by an in-character docent portraying a member of the Penrose family that founded the crystal factory. (The in-character story was that she was the housekeeper giving tours to visitors, a la Elizabeth Bennett’s experience at Pemberley.) The guide was excellent and the presentation helped make it more than a bare recital of catalog entries. The tour ended with a multimedia 3D video presentation on the history of the Penrose family and factory which was excellent enough to make up for my difficulty in processing 3D movies.

Also: lots of lovely countryside views on the train there and back. The trip back (in progress) is fairly empty, but on the trip down I shared a seating group with six older women going on overnight holiday who shared their chocolate bar with me and offered me a sociolinguist’s delight of conversational scripts. (They were doing that thing where any contribution is then followed by an echoing chorus of stock responses appropriate to the topic.)

I don’t have any specific plans for tomorrow and think I’ll take it easy, especially since Monday will be more touristing.

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