Mary Morrissey writes:
As soon as term ended, I had two intense days finishing off my paper for the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference, this year in New York. I was invited to take part in a panel celebrating twenty years since the publication of Debora Shuger’s, The Renaissance Bible: Scholarship, Sacrifice and Subjectivity, a book that had an enormous influence on me when I was starting my PhD and probably shaped the work that I have been doing ever since. The panel went extremely well, with scholars across disciplines (Anthony Grafton the historian and Paul Lim the theologian along with myself and Beth Quinslund, literary scholars) offering a variety of perspectives on the ways the meaning of the Bible was debated and communicated in early modern Europe.
Once my paper was over, I could enjoy the rest of the conference. The RSA is usually a big conference, but this year’s meeting was enormous: about 5000 scholars gathered in two big hotels in central Manhattan! I bumped into lots of people I knew: old colleagues from Reading (many of you will remember Adam Smyth and Dan Smith), and present colleagues (I heard a great paper by Michelle O’Callaghan on her project with the Australian Early Modern Women’s Writing Network). I also caught up with the research of the John Donne Society and heard lots more papers about subjects close to my own research.
But so many detailed scholarly papers in three days can make your head ache. So I took some time out to walk around Manhattan (my first visit!), and I saw Central Park and the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Station Terminal, and all are much more impressive than they seem on television. I also wandered around the Frick Gallery, which has some gorgeous paintings. Not surprisingly, my favourite was this portrait of Thomas More by Hans Holbein. It hangs opposite a Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell. Those of you who have read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall will know why I thought it so perfect that the two men should be eyeing each other up from either side of the wall!