Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Place of Memory and Book History: Madison

Wisconsin Hoofer Sailing Club badger beginner tech on lake Monona (with a sight of Capitol).

Madison is sometimes called the Athens of America. For me, it is a very important place around which I organize the memories of my academic life. I attended my first book history conference in Madison in 1995 (Print Culture in a Diverse America) and have been there for 1999 SHARP annual conference. My first real academic job was at the library school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999-2000. It was appropriate to go back there to mark this year's personal transition into the world of a tenured professor because it was the place where I started my journey as the barefoot scholar after getting my Ph.D. in 1999. So I decided to attend the 2006 conference organized by the Center for the Study of Print Culture to have an occasion to reflect on this whole process. Coincidentally, the library school was marking a Centennial of library education in Wisconsin at that time.

Badger Beginner Techs of
Wisconsin Hoofer Sailing Club lined up for a race. I learned to sail on these one-(wo)man boats on lake Mendota. The experience is meditative because it calls for concentration, strategy and intuition, while involving some physical effort and skill. The lake is like the metaphorical tea cup because even choppy waters don't seem dangerous for the lonely or reckless sailor. I have been towed together with my boat a few times out of the storm and helped get others out. The storms can happen quite quickly but that adds to the joy of the sport. The business of sailing itself is run in the open spirit of the place - in a participatory and accessible model.

More about the Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America conference (28-30 September, 2006) in the next post in which I also publish my response to the panel in which I participated as commentator.


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