Mearcstapa goes South

Hi all,

I would like to report briefly on a MEARCSTAPA-related trip. This weekend I went to Tennessee for the first annual MART (Medieval And Renaissance Teaching) conference, sponsored by Carson-Newman College. The conference, with the occult-related theme of “The Monstrous Middle Ages and the Wretched Renaissance” was housed–for maximum irony, it would seem–at the Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center:


The setting, in the rural Smokey Mountains, was quite stunning and bucolic, and the deep porches, filled with rocking chairs, were ideal for viewing the fall foliage.

Nick Deford–my native guide and generous host, and the main designer of MEARCSTAPA’s wonderful logo–and I took full advantage. Nothing like a fine, rustic country setting, but with free wireless.

There were many interesting papers, and I gave the keynote address, entitled “Can Monsters Really Take Up Half of My Survey Syllabus?” (The answer, of course, was “Yes!”) Other papers covered witchcraft, the Reformation (Luther as a 7-headed monster), hermaphrodites, and the Inquisition.

The real highlight, though, was dinner at the Front Porch, which bills itself as a Hillybilly Mexican restaurant. Rather surprisingly good enchiladas accompanied by a live bluegrass duo. The joint is in Cosby, TN, which looked like a good town to find moonshine for sale. Really.

This was all good enough, but then (and I suppose that the fact that it was the day before Halloween probably played a role, here), in walked a nine-year-old zombie named London:

Here she is, talking with me. This is the little monster responding to my assertion that I was a “monster expert.” When I called her a zombie, she pointed out that she was a girl, not a zombie, and, to prove this, she said “If I was a zombie, wouldn’t I be eatin’ your brains right now?” QED. She was already fabulous enough, but then, still in costume, she took to the stage and, accompanied by the bluegrass guys, sang Lee Greenwood’s jingoistic “God Bless the USA,” to the general delight of the crowd:


All was going well until she got to the part about New York (my homeland):

… To the hills of Tennessee
… Across the plains of Texas
… From sea to shining sea
… From Detroit down to Houston
… And New York to LA

After “Houston,” she stopped, well, dead (get it? zombie?). She just couldn’t get out those next words. I have never been to anywhere that was more foreign to me than Cosby, Tennessee, but it was all absolutely monstrous, and therefore all tremendous fun. I felt like every cell in my body was inscribed with an interlocking “NY.”

My thanks to Mary Baldridge and L. Kip Wheeler for organizing the conference and inviting me out to spread the Gospel of Monsters! And to Nick, for hosting me for a bonus talk at UT, while I was in the area. Which brings me to my final note. The University of Tennessee has the skeleton of a centaur. Yes, that’s what I said. Don’t believe me? Check it out here! Now I know what to ask my dean for this holiday season.

2 thoughts on “Mearcstapa goes South

  1. It was a great conference–thanks to Kip and Mary–and thanks to Asa for a wonderful keynote paper. Hope to see a lot of you in 2011 for the next conference!

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