a-Romen we will go

There will be several multilingual jokes coming from this news, many (all) of them Elvish, I’m afraid. (I apologise for nothing.)

In short: as of Lammas, I will be a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the Grenfell campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook!

Grenfell Campus - Home
(I can’t find the photographer’s name on the Uni site, alas)

I’m very excited to arrive (we’re aiming for the Feast of St Bartholomew) and to officially meet my new colleagues in-person for the first time. I will be the Department’s first medievalist, so I’m quite excited to further studies of the pre-modern world at Grenfell and to add to studies of the Middle Ages in the wider MUN community. (Thanks go out to my friend, John Geck, at the St John’s campus for help with the move. I look forward to working with John and with Bill Schipper, who was at PIMS as a visiting fellow whilst I was a Mellon fellow in 2018-2019.) It’s going to be quite the opportunity to be teaching at the university closest to the only (known, acknowledged) Viking settlement in North America. (More on that below, perhaps–and certainly more in the future.)

This coming term, I will be teaching “Intro to English I”, the department’s (and university’s) introduction to literary and critical reading and writing, as well as “Literary Survey I (Beginnings to 1700)” [which should obviously be re-named British Literary Survey, given the subject matter; but, remember, they were a Dominion until 1949]. I’m excited for both classes, even if I’m feeling under-prepared at this moment as I grapple with the manifold stresses of moving and home-purchase and so on.

Grenfell is a small campus of about 1400 students (smaller than my high school!), but is, by all accounts a very lively community. It is the heart of Memorial University’s Fine Arts programmes, and so the English department has close links with our students and colleagues in Theatre. (I guess I’ll be diving deeper into Passion Plays! And I’m definitely teaching the Second Shepherd’s Play in Survey now.) As a town, Corner Brook is traditionally closely tied to natural resources, principally forestry (we’ll be living in a house built for the fancier mill workers about a century ago) and the fisheries (shout-out to my buddy Dave Barry!), so Grenfell also has strong departments in NR management but also Sustainability, and our Associate VP Research–who was a delight in the interview–is all about soil sustainability as well as food security. (Hello, Dr Cheema!) There is a Nursing programme that is growing, too. In addition, I understand that about 300 students have First Nations ancestry, so there is a strong interest in Reconciliation on campus. In sum: I am very excited, and I think the Department of English (and pre-modern studies) has a lot to contribute. As at the beginning of each new academic undertaking, I will be re-reading The Educated Imagination.

Our journey out East will not be exactly easy, but we’ve a lot of support from many people. My department and faculty have been great, not least my chair, Adam Beardsworth, and our dean, Ken Jacobsen, but also my new colleagues, Shoshanna Ganz, for being so very welcoming and helpful, and Stephanie McKenzie (to whom I owe an email), who has offered home help and whom I will always thank for giving me a nod and thumbs up when I accidentally swore whilst answering a question during the interview. Thanks also go to the Scott Murphy at MUN who has the ungracious job of wrangling academics in a move, never mind the COVIDs, and likewise to Eileen Greenslade at HHMovers–darlings both.

We will also be helped in our journey by a new addition to the family: Pallando.

May be an image of car and road

As wise readers will know, Pallando was one of the two Ithryn Luin (the Blue Wizards) who accompanied Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast to Middle-earth c. TA 1000. (The other’s name was Alatar. Maybe the next vehicle?) The name means “One who travels far and wide.” HOWEVER, Pallando’s other name was Rómestámo, which means “East Helper,” so how could I not, right? Plus we will need the 8.7″ clearance and AWD to contend with the Corner Brook winters.

Despite the terrible (and terrifying) excitement to get to Corner Brook and to start up at Grenfell, I am going to miss Leiden University, most especially the students with whom I had the pleasure of working with this past year. It was a difficult period for all concerned, but I do believe we made the best of it. I truly enjoyed all my classes and think they did too. We managed to build little digital communities in our meetings each week, to get to know each other across spatial and temporal divides (in one class, I was in Sask [GMT – 6] and one student was in Saudi [GMT + 3]–and that was before silly DST started). Some days it was negative 49 Celsius where I was whilst it was plus 12 for most of the class in Leiden; other days much of the Netherlands was under a once-in-a-generation snowstorm shutdown (minus 12…) and Saskatchewan was enjoying an unseasonable plus one. We often shared these little differences as a way of breaking the, er, ice and just commenting on the strangeness of our situations, but it often served to put us all at ease. As one of my Philology 6 students suggested, we started simply greeting each other with “Good Timezone!” (Pronounce as you see fit; I do something like Teamocil.)

The future is going to be strange–and I’m not even thinking about the incessant fires, civil unrest, water shortages, right-wing-driven violence, etc. I just mean personally. I bought a house today…. Guess I’m an adult now. (St Praexed’s Day, for reference. There better be no onion stone in that foundation, not like at Gandolf’s place!) Many changes, many of them coming very fast. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful person to be facing them with–and one who doesn’t mind the pinball machines.

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