In the beginning…

In the beginning…

Today is the first day of my two-week promotional extravaganza! I’m excited to share more about this project, and nothing ensures I’ll blog about it daily like publicly announcing I’ll blog about it daily.

To kick off the series, I thought I’d share a bit about the genesis of this book project. I fell in love with the Exeter Book a decade ago, in my final year of college. My honors thesis centered on the Exeter Book poem Wulf and Eadwacer, which I loved for its ambiguity, brevity, and haunting refrain. Because I was double-majoring in creative writing and English, my thesis contained a short novella reimagining the poem in addition to a translation and critical analysis. Although the novella won’t be published anytime soon, my work on that project ingrained a fascination with Old English poetry which led me to pursue a Ph.D in English.

My graduate work focused on the importance of other-than-human forces in Old English literature, from the “monstrous” creatures described in The Wonders of the East to the wild winter storms described in the Exeter Book elegies. I was interested in how representations of the other-than-human in these texts might clarify early Medieval English ideas about what it meant to be human on this Earth.

At the same time, I was becoming increasingly aware of my own precarity as a human on this Earth. In August 2017, shortly after I completed my Ph.D., Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast, including my hometown of Houston, Texas. The next summer, as I transitioned into my new job on the West Coast, California experienced the worst wildfires in the state’s history. Studies suggest that the violence of both Hurricane Harvey and the California wildfires was almost certainly exacerbated by human-caused climate change. And yet, from 2017 to 2018, the number of Americans “doubtful” or “dismissive” of climate change increased.

The introduction to Old English Ecotheology argues that early medieval English writers acknowledged the effects of human action on the health of the planet; I wrote this book, in part, as a result of the fact that so many modern humans do not. Of course, Wulfstan’s belief that human sin was causing environmental crises (more on that on Wednesday!) is different than our awareness of the connection between, for example, logging and the loss of animal habitats. However, the fundamental belief is the same: our actions are causing the degradation of the Earth.

For a decade on either side of the first millennium, Wulfstan and his contemporaries suggested that concerted response to environmental crisis was a divine imperative; now, in second millennium, we are confronted with the same problems. How will we respond?

The final countdown

The final countdown

It’s August 1st, which means that Old English Ecotheology will be published two weeks from tomorrow! I’ve been working on this book project for almost five years, and I’m so excited (albeit a bit nervous) for it to be out in the world on August 16th. In preparation for publication, I’ve updated my website with a new page dedicated to Old English Ecotheology, including links to the preorder site, table of contents, and Introduction. I’ve also updated my list of current courses, and will add syllabi as I complete them.

I’ve also consolidated my (extremely) sporadic posts into a single blog page. To be honest, I haven’t had the bandwidth to blog much over the year or two: in addition to writing and editing Old English Ecotheology, I also completed a pre-tenure review and served on two hiring committees during the pandemic. Now that things have calmed down a little bit, I’m looking forward to blogging regularly.

I’ll be promoting Old English Ecotheology pretty relentlessly here and on Twitter over the next two weeks. To keep things interesting, I’ve developed a list of themed posts for each day of the countdown. Check them out below!

First Day

First Day

Today is the first day of class at Whitworth, so I thought I’d share my first day activities. This year, I adapted Liv Mariah Yarrow’s opening day questionnaire as a way of getting to know my students. They answered the following questions on a handout and shared their responses to the bolded prompts:

  1. Preferred name 
  2. Pronunciation guide (E.g.: Buh-RAH-hoss)
  3. Preferred pronouns (feel free to share!)
  4. I am from…
  5. It is my __________ year at Whitworth.
  6. Majors I’m considering:
  7. In ten years I hope to be…
  8. My biggest time commitment outside of school is…
  9. I like to read…
  10. My favorite book/poem/play/text is…

I was fascinated by all of my students’ answers, but especially their answers for #8–even at a small private liberal arts school, we can never assume that our students have no responsibilities outside of their classes. A number of my students have leadership positions on campus, many volunteer in their communities, and at least half of the students in my first class also work. I’m looking forward to getting to know these students as the semester progresses; for now, I’m thankful for this glimpse into their lives beyond my classroom.

The second activity we did was a values affirmation exercise. I asked students to consider a list of values (e.g.: bravery, compassion, empathy, grace, integrity, etc.) and circle the three which they consider to be the most important. They then shared their choices with a partner and discussed how they have tried to practice those values in their daily life. Eventually, the class came together as a group to share our common values and draft a course contract with statements expressing how we can practice those values in class. At the end of class, we had produced a list of common values and practices which will help to guide class discussion and conduct throughout the semester. Here’s an example:

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The finished contract will be signed by all students and myself and posted on our course website. It is my hope is that this exercise helps to develop a sense of community between my students–by sharing their values and agreeing to practices which display those values, they are making the classroom a safe and welcoming space for thinking, learning, growing, and, yes, making memes.

I’m happy to share any/all of the activities listed above, if anyone is interested. If you have any suggestions for community-building first-day activities, comment below!

Back to school!

Back to school!

It’s been a minute, but I’m back to blogging! My first semester as a tenure-track Assistant Professor starts on September 5th, and it can’t come soon enough! I’ll be taking part in a number of back-to-school activities in the coming weeks, including a new faculty dedication ceremony in the University Chapel which will almost certainly reduce me to tears. This is my fifth year teaching as instructor of record at the university level, but I still feel the same excitement I felt on my first day as a TA back in 2011. I can’t wait to meet my new students and colleagues and truly become a part of the Whitworth community.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share syllabi for the two literature courses I’ll be teaching this semester. Click on the link to download a copy of the syllabus; a detailed course schedule can be found at the end of both documents.

EL 207: British Literature to 1800 is the first part of our British literature survey. In news that will surprise no one, the first seven weeks of this 12-week class are dedicated to medieval literature. The syllabus ends about a hundred years early with Paradise Lost. 

EL 247: Shakespeare is…exactly what it sounds like. I’ve divided the course into generic units on the tragedies, histories, and comedies. I really wanted to include some of the narrative poetry, but I just don’t have time.

I’m really excited about teaching both of these courses. I’m also teaching one section of Writing I, and I’ll share that syllabus soon. If you have any thoughts on these syllabi, or any advice on my first year, please comment below!

 

 

Summer ’16

Summer ’16

Yesterday was last day of the Spring semester (for me, at least), which means that today is the first day of SUMMER. It’s hard to believe another academic year has come and gone; it’s especially hard to believe that it’s been almost a year and a half since I began work on my dissertation. My second chapter has been really difficult–more difficult than my first chapter by far. I’m planning to enter the job market next fall, so this summer needs to be a productive one, dissertation-wise. I’m traveling to Kalamazoo for the ICMS next week (!!!) and London for the NCS Congress in July, but other than that, I am dedicating this summer to work. To that end, I made a list of concrete goals for Summer 2016:

  1. Finish chapters 2 and 3. My dissertation has three “body” chapters; I plan to have drafts of the final two ready for my advisors by the end of the summer. I’m enrolled in a 3-week intensive writing workshop next month, and I’m not sure if I should use it to finish my second chapter (which I’ve been struggling with since January) or if I should use it to start work on the third. I’m not sure I’m ready to enter the intensive writing phase for the third chapter, honestly. But maybe that’s just an excuse! Any advice is welcome.
  2. Revise chapter 1 (again). Regardless of what order I write them in, once I’m done with the second and third chapters, I want to return to the first with fresh eyes, and see if any new connections can be made.
  3. Finish job market materials. This semester I took a class dedicated to preparing job market materials: cover letter, teaching philosophy statement, dissertation abstract, etc. I’ve got strong drafts of each of those documents, and I want to use this summer to make them stronger. I’m a pretty anxious person naturally, and I want to be as prepared as possible for the horrors that undoubtedly await me in the fall.

There you have it: Summer ’16. Let’s go!

Spring Break Dissertation Boot Camp

Spring Break Dissertation Boot Camp



It’s a busy time of the year in Austin. Spring break started yesterday, and the South By Southwest music festival begins tomorrow, so the city is full distractions. I’ve been making an effort to get to the coffee shop by 9 so I can get a few hours of work in before heading out in search of live music. I’ve got a chapter due by the end of the semester, so I’m hoping to use this break to get the bulk of it done. If you’ve got any good writing vibes to send my way, I’d appreciate it! 

Summer 2015 Conference Schedule

Summer 2015 Conference Schedule

My first conference of the summer will be the Middle Ages in the Modern World conference at the University of Lincoln. I attended this conference when it was held at the University of St. Andrews in the summer of 2013, and I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a conference experience so much. I’ll be presenting in Panel 3C–Medievalism and the Modern Novel–on Wednesday, 1st July from 3 to 4:30. My paper will focus on Paul Kingsnorth’s novel The Wake, and will explore modern understandings of 1066 and the Anglo-Saxon relationship to nature.

I’ll also be attending the International Medieval Congress at Leeds for the second time, and I’m very much looking forward to reconnecting with friends and learning from colleagues from across the world. I’ll be presenting in panel 801–More Than A Feeling?: Anglo-Saxons on Emotions–on Tuesday, 7th July from 4:30 to 6. My paper, “‘The Work Of Giants’: Nationalism and Nostalgia in the Old English Ruin” stems from research conducted while writing my dissertation. Please do come by if you’ll be in Leeds!