Sunday, June 15, 2008


I've been reading Chaucer again, with my old book, and got to thinking about the regional university where I first took English classes. I was able to take at least 3 medieval lit classes there, a Canterbury Tales class, a Troilus and Criseyde class, and a Medieval Drama class. There were three medievalists teaching four classes a semester. Yes, each taught the basic medieval survey classe, but I didn't take that there. (I did sit in on a survey class as a PhD student, just for the background.)

Wow. We try to teach a Chaucer or medieval class every other year here. There's no real medievalist.

I think this is mostly a numbers thing. My RU was three times the size of NWU, and so could offer a wider array of all sorts of programs. And the lit staff didn't teach comp (there was a separate comp staff and program), so they taught more lit than we do here. (And 4/4 is hell, of course!)

What an opportunity they gave me there. Really. If I die and end up leaving money, I'm leaving a chunk to that school because it really does provide amazing opportunities despite tremendous budget difficulties.

The faculty at RU was encouraging, and good teachers. Some of them had written some fine books, too. When I look back, I have great affection for RU and gratitude for the opportunities they gave me to study and learn, and for the encouragement.

Thanks, RU.


  1. i had one class in which chaucer was taught. and -- wow. i remember how amazing it was to unravel the text and see how wonderful, important, and meaningful canterbury tales was, lo those centuries later.

    this is very off-topic, but here is a story on manga cliff-notes about shakespeare, in case you have not seen anything on this:

  2. sorry, not a story -- a link from a local news station.

  3. At my small liberal arts alma mater, we had a relatively large English faculty (15 or 18 people, I think). We only had one medievalist (and he was great ... though I didn't take his upper division courses ...) ... but we had great people in all fields.

    The professor who taught my second survey course in British literature was an expert in Augustan poetry (after 1660 -- they did it right at my school! None of this cramming literature from Beowulf to 1798 into a short period of time). While I was a student there, the department hired someone to teach late 18th century novels and Jane Austen.

    We definitely don't have that at my current institution, despite having a much larger faculty. We've got a couple of tenured faculty members who were probably hired in the 18th century (well ... I think one was hired as a Romanticist), but after tenure their interests shifted. This gave me -- non-tenure-track-instructor-me -- the opportunity to teach 18th century novel this spring. Granted, it's my secondary field, too, but the department isn't really prioritizing it. Despite the fact that the tenure and tenure track faculty is twice the size as the one where I was an undergrad. Granted, I work in Florida, so they can't exactly prioritize hiring anyone right now ...

    You can always tell when the financially good times were for a college -- and when the school prioritized something other than hiring a full complement of faculty.

  4. Leave them a chunk of change when you die, if you have one--but write them now and tell them what you just posted, and send them a check for $25 if you can, too. It might not be as grand a gesture, but it will please them to no end, I'm sure.

  5. Three medievalists...

    Ark. Here at my working class university, we have about fifteen English instructors, but about three of us *are* the upper-level English faculty. I teach all the non-modern/other fields (except Shakespeare and 16th century, because we have a guy who can do that); another professor teaches all the 20th century lit. A few classes (like Hispanic or SW lit or YA Lit) get taught by people we drag in from other departments.

    I'm sitting here trying to imagine the level of wealth that lets you have three medievalists. I'd like to have three working DVD players, frankly.

  6. Kathy A, thanks for commenting and the link :)

    Emily, Interesting; the 18th c folks where I am seem to have drifted elsewhere, too. Do you blame Dryden?

    Brian, That's a good idea. I've actually been in touch with a couple of my profs from there, so the ones who count know how I feel. But a donation to the department's a good idea!

    Delagar, I think this was a matter of size, primarily, and certainly NOT wealth. And it was 20 years ago, and two of the medievalists were close to retirement, so at least partly things probably reflected hiring choices in the 1960s.