It was a great party. Champagne flowed, toasts were offered, desserts consumed, tears shed, and the next day, one of the party-goers had to lie down on the floor during his conference paper presentation (see photo). Now THAT had to be one great party!
I'm referring, of course, to the fêting of Arthuriana's out-going Editor-in-Chief, Bonnie Wheeler, at this year's International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Over the course of the conference, a series of events (that have come to be known collectively as 'Bonniefest') took place to honor the woman who transformed Arthuriana into the cutting-edge academic journal it is today and who has invigorated Arthurian and Medieval Studies in exciting ways too numerous to count. Through her numerous articles and edited collections, her television appearances, her dynamic classroom performances, her New Middle Ages book series for Palgrave Macmillan and-most especially-her support, encouragement, and nurturing of young scholars, Bonnie Wheeler has profoundly and positively affected both the academy and the larger world. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen perhaps put it best on the blog he co-authors (inthemedievalmiddle.com) when he called Bonnie the 'godmother of medieval studies':
A long series of toasts attested to the profound impact Bonnie has had on the field-an impact discernible not only in her scholarship and scholarly projects (the journal Arthuriana, the New Middle Ages series at Palgrave), but also in her cultivation of and care for those whose work might otherwise have been neglected. I count myself among that group, because from the moment I met her Bonnie has taken an interest in my endeavors....She makes medieval studies a field I love. To do so, perhaps, you have to be a bit larger than life-and that is Bonnie. She gave a forceful presentation at the GW MEMSI panel that made that presence clear. A BABEL session happened to be in the same space immediately afterward...and as those presentations were in progress, Bonnie tip-toed into the room to retrieve the pocketbook she had left behind. Dressed in her vibrant orange ensemble complete with matching dramatic scarf, there was no way for her to impersonate an inconspicuous academic. Nonetheless she attempted to render herself invisible and to pass behind the speakers to grab the bag. The scene will be emblazoned on my mind forever.
As anyone who knows Bonnie can attest, there is indeed nothing of the 'inconspicuous academic' about her. I am happy to assure the readers of Arthuriana that her stepping down as editor of the journal hardly means her presence in Medieval and Arthurian studies will be diminished in any way; indeed, our next issue will be a special issue on the figure of Guenevere which she will guest edit, and she continues to be engaged in several other exciting scholarly projects. She will remain conspicuous.
In addition to the party at the Kalamazoo Radisson, three entire sessions of the International Congress were dedicated to honoring Bonnie; several of the papers presented during those sessions appear in this special issue in revised form. Readers may notice that some of the topics covered are not strictly (or in some cases, even remotely) Arthurian in nature. They are, however, pieces that honor the incredible scope and depth of Bonnie Wheeler's interests and scholarship, and thus, the editorial staff at Arthuriana thought it fitting that in this one instance, we break one of our cardinal rules-especially as it meant we had the opportunity to publish some very fine pieces of scholarship. And if ever a woman deserved to have rules broken in her honor, that woman is Bonnie Wheeler.
It also stands to reason that a party, papers, and a special issue of the journal are hardly enough to do justice to all her accomplishments. A festschrift in honor of Bonnie Wheeler-co-edited by yours truly with Ann Astell, Howell Chickering, and Jo Goyne-will appear in early 2010. Entitled Magistra Doctissima: Essays in Honor of Bonnie Wheeler it will include new research by Geoffrey Ashe, Elizabeth A. …