This note is being written so that there will be a reference point for new and newer participants in the sessions sponsored by IMANA at the International Medieval Congress and the Friday banquet that has been one of its hallmarks from the outset.
The congress, held annually in May at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan (to insiders, the ‘Zoo), was not always as important to the Hispanomedieval community as it is today. When I attended for the first time, I believe in 1972 (I was teaching in my first post-Ph.D. job, at Minnesota), I remember counting about seven or eight Hispanists in attendance, who presented papers in diverse sections. It was then most common to send an abstract to the congress organizers, who would then assign it to a compatible session. There were sponsoring organizations, but not as many as there are now. [End Page 169]
I attended off and on in the following years. The ‘Zoo was growing rapidly in number of attendees (and in sponsorship organizations), but Hispanists were always few. The MLA conference was their central venue, and many frankly did not see the value in attending both. It was a shame, because the difference between the two venues was striking. There is no job market at the ‘Zoo (although certainly informal networking), few formalities such as jackets and ties, many medieval plays and concerts, the highly specialized book exhibit,1 the Midnight Dance, the staged jousting appearances on the lawn by the Society for Medieval Anachronism, the dormitory accommodations, the campus atmosphere, the final conference banquet, the lack of a big city environment and more. It was intellectually stimulating and fun, and I thought more people would find it so, too, if only a start could be made.
So, in 1988, I wrote a letter to the then-director of the annual congress, Otto Gründler, telling him that there would be a new sponsorship group and petitioning him for sessions for 1989. This was, happily, granted; I got to work putting together a program, and thus was IMANA born. In our correspondence, I told Gründler that I wished to provide a meeting ground for Hispanists so that more would come and be part of the Congress, and this was, I think, what convinced him.
IMANA. Where did the name come from? It is quite simple, at least to me. I’d been struck by a phrase from a poem: “fuente que mana i corre” and, fooling with it just a little, saw that the reverse “corre i mana” would give me a useful acronym: Ibero Medieval Association of North America. It rolled off the tongue and had a Hispanic origin as well!
The idea behind the group was this: IMANA would not be a dues-collecting membership association nor would it have officers and elections and politics. It would be a means to organize sessions of wide-ranging interest which, in the early years, it did: Castilian, Portuguese and Catalan. The only costs to participants would be those of the Congress fees themselves [End Page 170] (my philosophy was that any and all participants and attendees would be “members” of IMANA). In the collegiate idyll of the Western Michigan University campus, with its greenswards and swans swimming in the pond, people could spend more time talking over the three meals they shared without the hurry-scurry that can characterize an MLA conference, where Iberomedievalists are more scattered in different hotels, and busy with touring the host city.
In my earlier adventures at the ‘Zoo, I knew about how the off-campus restaurant, BRAVO!, was so accommodating and thought it would be nice to gather there for a pleasant meal and some business as well. If memory serves, the first BRAVO! Friday “banquet” in 1989 brought together fifteen stalwart Iberianists; together we collected suggestions for the next year’s sessions (this became a necessary tradition) and supped and sipped in a most pleasant and amenable setting. BRAVO! being a few miles away from WMU, advance plans had to be made as to who had cars and who needed a ride. Many of us had...