I could simply apologize for the long hiatus on MassMedieval, but it’s much more entertaining to blame Mother Nature and her insane decision to include only twenty-four hours in a day. It’s very unkind of her, and I do believe she needs to reconsider her position on this matter. As John hinted in his last post, his personal life has undergone serious changes – or, rather, one small one. I have no such excuse, unless you count a new kitten who only demands my time in that her antics are all too tempting of a distraction.
So shall we recap?
From every shires ende of academia to Kalamazoo they wende: As per usual, I made my trek into the wilds of Michigan to join my fellow medievalists in the rites of Spring – otherwise known as Kalamazoo and the International Congress. It occurred to me this time how poignant of a reunion the conference is for me these days. In graduate school, my colleagues and I transplanted ourselves en masse from Connecticut to Michigan to partake in the festivities and the academic discussion. Now, my former graduate colleagues are spread across the country, making the conference our one place a year to reconnect (unless you count Facebook – but that’s an entirely different post). It is heartening that the bond we forged in grad school still exists, almost effortlessly recreated as we willingly seek each other out and share our stories. The University of Connecticut program has always been unique in that we pride ourselves on our camaraderie, to the point of gleefully helping each other find jobs and professional (as well as personal) opportunities. I count myself fortunate.
Second year on the job: The end of this semester marked my second year as an Assistant Professor of English Studies at Fitchburg State University. In some ways, it has been like an extended first year as I was rehired in the second year to a tenure-track position. It’s been a busy year for my department – moving into temporary digs as our offices are remodeled, dealing with growing pains, hiring new faculty (as I got my first taste of being a search committee chair), etc. Plenty of opportunities for a new professor with an inability to say “no” to get involved in every way possible. Remember my lament for the miniscule twenty-four hours?
Across the pond: One of the more exciting developments this year was having a new course approved – English Studies Abroad. I wouldn’t recommend speaking to me about it because I’m sure I get that maniacal glint of glee in my eyes at the idea of taking students overseas to experience what they read. Yes, travelling with undergraduates has its stresses, but the rewards are also great. And, of course, there is the necessity of a “dry run,” as it were. At least that’s my rationale for planning a vacation to England this summer. I’m playing tourist, not the academic, this time, and I’m looking forward to seeing the sights through my mother’s and my six-year-old nephew’s eyes. If you would like to see proposed destinations, check this map out. I plan a series of posts on these sites – some before, some after the trip.
Summers are for research: I decided to take a break from teaching this summer to complete some research. First and foremost on the list is an article for an upcoming handbook, Medieval Culture: A Compendium of Critical Topics. The project is described as including “a wide range of fundamental aspects relevant for the cultural history of the European Middle Ages” and the topics will be “from an interdisciplinary and trans-European perspective.” My subject is – wait for it – memory. I’m looking forward to finishing up this work. Oddly enough, I find the idea of medieval memory as fascinating now as I did when I first decided on my dissertation topic. As an added bonus, I was named a Harrod Lecturer here at Fitchburg for the Fall; my lecture will also be related to memory, giving me another opportunity to play around in the medieval mind.
Back in the classroom: On tap for the Fall, I have two new courses to plan. The first is an undergraduate Classic Mythology course. This prospect has also made me inordinately giddy. Mythology is a side interest of mine, and I am eager to put the class together. An unexpected problem has developed in that…well…there is just too much to cover. An embarrassment of riches. Narrowing down and finding the right, most exciting approach will be difficult. I’ll have a post about this before too long as I make decisions. The second is a graduate course, “Disease and Disability in Early Literature.” One of the positive side effects of attending Kalamazoo is a renewed (although never dead) interest in medieval disability studies. This course will be a welcome extension of that interest. And, given how thought-provoking my grad course on the history of memory was this semester, I am anticipating a good class.
I could go on. The life of a professor is never dull! But let’s leave it there with a promise for a more focused post next time.