These days, I empathise more and more with the Anglo-Saxon scholars living in the time of the Viking incursions. Displaced from the familiar comfort of the libraries in London into a distant island where academic knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons is greeted with a disdainful smirk, how I long for Wulfstan of my own to stir these slumbering minds into intellectual revival! Alas! I fear that there is less hope for the people of post-colonial Singapore than tenth-century England. It is not merely the lack of resources that stifles me; it is the acute absence of academic stimuli that asphyxiates my mind. There are many reasons to love Singapore, but the glorification of pragmatism over ‘economically unviable’ intellectual pursuits is certainly not one of them.
I believed rather naively that my superior mind would somehow still be able to thrive in this fallow environment, but, not for the first time, youthful exuberance is proven to be the product of prideful arrogance and blind optimism than grounded hope. It is frustrating to know that I cannot be at the forefront of cutting edge research. I know that a few readers of this blog are in a similar situation, and I would be most grateful for any advice!
My current predicament brings to mind an excellent conference I attended many months back in Senate House, London. The LASS, otherwise known as the London Anglo-Saxon Symposium, is an annual conference for Anglo-Saxon researchers and enthusiasts alike to listen to a handful of papers and to discuss their ideas amongst like-minded folk. This year’s symposium was in March 2013 and focused on the City of London (abstracts here). Joy Jenkyn’s exploration (both academic and literal) of the boundary markers found in one of King Edgar’s land charters was particularly good. It’s a shame I can’t attend the 2014 edition of LASS because the topic, I’m told, is going to be ‘Religion’. Looks like the age-old question of Anglo-Saxon belief is coming back into fashion! Details haven’t officially been released but I’ll be sure to post them once they’re out.
Another event catering to Anglo-Saxonists of all stripes that I’d attended was the Birkbeck Medieval Seminar, entitled ‘Landscape and Belief’. John Blair discussed his vampire thesis alongside his anthropological comparative approach, and there was also an excellent presentation on Old Norse place-names by Stefan Brink – not quite my area of specialisation, but it certainly gave me something to look out for when I visited Norway! I’m not sure if it will be held again next year as Tom Pickles, who organised this year’s seminar, has since moved to the University of Chester. Tom is almost entirely responsible/culpable for my passion in Anglo-Saxon studies, and you’re interested in Anglo-Saxon monastic foundations or a comparative study with early medieval Ireland, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
I have also stumbled across the Guthlac Conference, to be held in Senate House, London from 10-11 April 2014. This might appeal more to students of Old English literature; I’m rather more a fan of Felix’s Latin original. But perhaps the historian in me is wont to prejudice.
I’m not entirely sure how my lament about the lack of Anglo-Saxon resources in Singapore developed into a list of conferences past and and to come! I suppose they remind me that not all is lost, that I can continue my research as an independent scholar in spite of the hurdles and hoops that abound.