A guest post by Professor Ken Graham
From March 22-24 doctoral candidate Danila Sokolov and I attended the annual convention of the Renaissance Society of America in Washington, D.C. The RSA is a large multi-disciplinary organization devoted to the study of all aspects of the Renaissance, including its history, literature, art, music, philosophy, and political and legal thought (see www.rsa.org). Approximately 1650 people participated in this year’s program, and the program booklet itself was over 500 pages long.
A conference of this size is incredibly diverse and exciting – an excitement we’ll experience in Waterloo soon with the Congress looming – and it includes numerous mini-conferences. On Thursday, for example, Shakespeare sessions ran all day in the same room; on Friday, four consecutive sessions were organized by the Sir Philip Sidney Society, including two on one of my favourite writers, Fulke Greville; and on Saturday there were four consecutive sessions on John Milton. I presented my paper on how Milton’s idea of church discipline informs Paradise Lost in the second of these. Danila spoke about the political rhetoric of Mary Stewart’s casket sonnets to a session on “Royal Dynasties Abroad.”
Of course we saw lots of people we know, including some with Waterloo connections. Friday morning we heard 2010 uW doctoral grad Diane Jakacki, now a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, read a paper in a session on Shakespeare and digital teaching tools. The session chair was Christine McWebb, of French Studies and the Stratford Campus, and one of the session organizers was Ray Siemens, a Waterloo English grad who sits on the Department’s Advisory Council. We posed for this picture afterwards.
Another highlight was a Thursday evening lecture at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger boasts the largest collection of early modern books and manuscripts in North America, as well as a wide range of academic programs, which are open to uW faculty and grad students through our membership in Chicago’s Newberry Library. Afterwards there was a reception and a chance to view the current exhibit on “Shakespeare Sisters,” which features sixteenth and seventeenth-century books and manuscripts written by women. The first display, on “The Clifford Women,” included books dedicated to Lady Anne Clifford, whose diary of 1616-1619 Kathy Acheson has twice edited. (Learn more about “Shakespeare’s Sisters” here: http://www.folger.edu/Content/Whats-On/Folger-Exhibitions/Shakespeares-Sisters/.)
There was even time for some sightseeing. The weather was as glorious in Washington as it was here last week, and the famous cherry trees, a gift of Japan to the United States exactly 100 years ago, were in full bloom. We strolled past many of the tourist sights – the White House and the Washington Monument among them – but our destination, set amidst the cherry blossoms rimming the Tidal Basin, was Washington’s newest attraction: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, a monument to the words and spirit of a man who dwarfs us all.