Monday, June 30, 2008

Retirement Books

One of my colleagues retired this spring, and is emptying out his office. When O started out, he studied Old English, medieval lit, and linguistics, but in recent years, he's moved into a newer field of study, one he would probably have chosen at the first if he'd had the opportunity. So he hasn't used the old Chaucer texts for a while, and invited me to come pick out whatever books I thought I might want. He also gave me a bunch of various Chaucer editions to share with students in my class this fall.

It was nice. O has been one of those colleagues who I could turn to for help with medieval Latin (because I have no Latin beyond a few tag phrases) or some question of this or that, and he'd cheerfully help me. But I don't know O very well because he's been mostly involved in this other field, and their offices aren't very near mine.

But every year, I would see him at a big get together, and it's always a pleasure. (And there's dancing and food and music!)

I like when colleagues give old books to newer folks. It's like the knowledge, the love of learning, and the caring about old stuff continues. (Maybe that only works well for those of us who study older periods?) So even if I won't use some of these books much, there's a kind of continuity in having them in the office, or in passing them along to students.

It seems I'm now the medievalist, since my other early period colleague has decided that she doesn't want to teach Chaucer at all, ever, or anything else medieval. (I can't imagine not wanting to teach Chaucer or Shakespeare, really.) It makes me sad to be the only person around who does, though, since I feel inadequate and want to ask other folks questions all the time, or toss around ideas about how to teach this or that. It's lonely in the earlier periods, way more lonely than at bigger or R1 type schools.


  1. It's lonely in early music history, too, where I'm the only one who teaches my subject. (I'm the only one who teaches the kazoo, too. In a small town like mine, it means that I have ONE other person in town, Emeritus Kazoo Prof, with whom to "talk shop." Thank goodness for conventions and the internet!)

    And thank goodness for kind colleagues who pass along books.

  2. Yeah, that's a nice gesture from O. While I was in grad school, my dissertation adviser one summer told me that over the years she'd acquired several double copies of things, so she invited me to go through her shelves and take a copy of anything she had two of. That really created the basis of my collection, and to me it was a very meaningful gesture. (For her it was just weeding, I'm sure, but I certainly appreciated it.)

  3. One of the many, many reasons I love my advisor is that he let me pick over his books when he retired and cleaned out his office (which was, unfortunately, some months before I finished my dissertation). The other grad students in Renaissance studies were invited, too, but I got first dibs :)

    I expect I'll have some of those books until I retire. It's a good feeling.

  4. I love the way inherited books create a conversation over time. And I love passing books on. I'm not big on selling them.

  5. I don't think it's just in that field. My advisor put a box of outdated digital rhetoric books outside her door. I was the first one there (because I was meeting with her), and I still picked a few up. They may not have updated information, but they are important to me because they came from someone I respect.

  6. Who doesn't want to teach Chaucer?! Chaucer rocks! I'm pretty sure our Miltonist would love the opportunity to teach Chaucer while I'm on leave. I'm a little afraid of the Renaissance propagandist way he'd teach it, but I'd let him! (Hee! I'm only half joking here, actually.)

  7. I finally have a colleague who's interested in some of the premodern stuff. Of course, he's only here on a three year contract!

    That said, when my senior colleagues retired, I inherited all of their British and premodern books. Most of them were frightfully old textbooks, however, and not terribly useful for anything. But it was a sweet thought!