2nd Biennial BABEL Meeting - Wild Fermentation: Disciplined Knowledge and Drink

full name / name of organization: 
Nathan Kelber / Rob Wakeman
contact email: 

"Wild Fermentation: Disciplined Knowledge and Drink"

Panel for the BABEL Working Group's second biennial conference at MIT, September 20-22, 2012.

There in wine is found the great generalization; all life is fermentation…. If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure; drink it and forget it all! – Richard Feynman

This session brings together all Ale-squires and ale-wives, tapsters and ostlers, butlers and chamblerlains, pot-companions, Lick-wimbles, Malt-wormes, and Vine-fretters: We invite examinations of alcohol and the alehouse in the medieval and postmedieval world: submissions on the theme of alcohol, or on reading, learning, and experiencing the world through, with, or without the ecstatic experience of drinking together. We are looking for 4-5 ten-minute papers. Participants must be willing to entertain outbursts, wassailing, academic revelry, and the threat of good-natured punishment.

In the shadows of every university, the Alehouse provides a common font for our very best and (very worst) nonhierarchical thinking. If we "re-sound our disciplinary wells," we will find that the aquifer beneath is infused with alcohol. Our goal is the inebriation of disciplinary limits: how might beer and wine prickle, tingle, blur, buzz, and nauseate the academic conversation? How might the abrogation of our disciplinary inhibitions encourage originality and creativity, new conversations, and new forms of knowledge making.

We propose to re-imagine the paper session as a drinking game, with rules for engaging, celebrating, and disciplining academic thought. Because discipline means more than mere memory and theory, but also praxis, we will be offering our own 14th-century style craft brew as a catalyst for discussion. Our aim is to bring post-conference conviviality into the conference session. We will examine the alehouse (like the after-conference) as a space that breaks down academic hierarchies and disciplinary limits. The result, we hope, will have the atmosphere of the anti-salon – a space for serious thinking in the Dionysian raw.
What vigorous meditations, narrations, ramblings, and other forms of learned storytelling Harry Bailey's game provokes. What generic investigations result from the experiences and expertises of a diverse band "hooked up," in the Democritean sense, at the Tabard Inn. Shunning the droning of papers, our commedia dell'arte takes place within the performative social order of the alehouse. The relationships between panel and audience will be liquid, allowing sufficient room for risk, error, openness, and honesty.


Nathan Kelber Rob Wakeman
Department of English Department of English
University of Maryland University of Maryland
nkelber@umd.edu rob.wakeman@gmail.com