I seem to be learning to go about without too many misadventures. Although traveling whilst accompanied by a Latin dictionary did land me in a few confusions (of the most minor sort): the aeroport people had to stop and extricate the thing from the midst of my baggage (what potentially alarming objects dictionaries are!); again, walking about the campus with dictionary in hand appears to give one an air of authority, and I often had to explain to intrigued persons that I was Certainly No Authority on the subject of Classics programs at UNB. With those exceptions, and various aeroport befuddlements, I carried myself with competent dignity. Or at least competence.
I very much liked New Brunswick: I was expecting the landlocked nature of Fredericton to render it very little different from any location in Southern Ontario. I forgot about differences in demographic density, and the presence of different flora et fauna. Especially the former. Fredericton (and Moncton) contain So Very Many Trees. The drive between the two cities is a wall of green, and many more varieties of the colour than typifies the Ontario landscape (even the escarpment). Most of the trees are birch, and pine, and cedar, so everything really does smell like a combination of those things (simultaneously sweet and fresh). It was a restorative experience after the grey haze of Hamilton. Other differences: one hears frogs at night instead of crickets, and there are mosquitos everywhere (big ones of the Aedes and Culiseta varieties). And there’s water. My initial impression of New Brunswick, both from the air and on the ground, is that it’s floating: the earth underneath seems to have been worn very thin to the point where pockets of water poke through almost everywhere, and all seeming to drift towards the St. John. That there isn’t really a shore line strengthens this impression: one doesn’t experience a gradual approach to the river, but simply walks through a grassy field until suddenly there’s no more land (I was constantly surprised by this event as I walked about). And all along the river ones sees trees seemingly growing in the water like mangroves: half of their trunks are covered in liquid (which is a beautiful and fascinating sight).
The campus itself is very green, and on a series of hills which are sort of perfect for lolling on, which I did frequently. As with Victoria, we seem to have gotten the only sunny days the place has had or is likely to have for awhile (it was raining again on my final afternoon). The campus is clearly very old, though one can trace the development of the hundreds-years-old buildings (the grey stone ones with ornate decorations and Latin phrases carved in the facades) to the more recent, following developments like the multi-paned windows (early-to-mid twentieth-century), the red brick facades (1920s-1970s, with the later buildings having fewer gaps between bricks and generally being more square and with less ornamentation), and the contemporary glass-and-metal style.
The conference itself was one of the most productive, even though I only went to about two days of panels. My colleagues made me think — a lot, I was introduced to new play texts, and new critical approaches to the gender/sex problems I’m thinking through, and also got to hear some stylish papers on topics I don’t normally get to spend much time thinking about. I met KB, who wrote Sexual Violence on the Jacobean Stage (New York: Palgrave MacMillan 2000), and she and my supervisor gave me many ideas about resources for presenting work, and places to start on my comps list. And I indeed started my comps list, reading Sidney’s Old Arcadia. I’m beginning with romance narratives because, as the Most Clever persons pointed out to me, the romance genre is in some ways founded on the threat to (and of) the female sexual body. I’m going to try to trace the ways that the genre has worked its way into early modern comedies.
Mostly I’m happy because I’ve recalled my interest in my project, and feel like I have a (more) focused way of thinking about it. Fredericton has made the numbness brought on by coursework begin to thaw. It also saw me off with good (non-fishy!) food and many new (used) books. How I like that place!
3 June 2011 ~ Hamilton