How many times have you been at a huge conference—the AHA, Leeds, Kalamazoo, MAA—and missed a session you really wanted to attend but couldn’t because the panels were at the same time? Plenty, I’ll bet. And when that happens, we imagine the perfect conference that would bring together scholars whose work dovetails with your own, whose critique you value, and with whom you would love to brainstorm over drinks and dinner? Well, sometimes dreams come true.
Professor Heather Tanner organized a conference at Ohio State University-Mansfield this past weekend with the captivating title, “Beyond Exceptionalism” (The conference program can be found at https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/default.aspx?EventID=1738546). About two dozen of us spent two days pondering questions of women and the exercise of power—political, economic, familial, religious, among others—in the Middle Ages and thinking about ways to move the discourse further. It was among the intellectually richest weekends I’ve ever spent, filled with smart, funny, and articulate people. Our conversations ranged from Flanders to Georgia, included nuns and queens, and took up all sorts of things, from politics, economics, warfare, and family relations to a noblewoman who took up piracy.
At the roundtable wrap-up on Saturday, we talked about ways to move, literally, beyond the idea that women who have and/or exercise power are somehow exceptional. They are, they were not, of course, and we have ample evidence to back up that claim. Stay tuned the for articles, books, and all sorts of conference papers generated by this rich conference.