Brandon W. Hawk

Reflections on My Postdoc Year

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This academic year was Year One after my PhD, which I defended early last August, just in time to move for a teaching postdoc in English at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. My year at UTK has been filled with great experiences and opportunities, so as the spring semester (and the academic year) comes to an end, I’m reflecting on it all. On top of that, I face another big transition over the summer. I recently made the announcement on social media that I’ve accepted a position as Assistant Professor (Digital Humanities and Medieval Studies) in the Department of English at Rhode Island College (in Providence). I’m extremely grateful for the position, and know how fortunate I am for it–especially given how difficult the job market is, and how few jobs for medievalists popped up this year. Since accepting the position, the reality has been settling in, moving from surreality to excitement as I approach the summer, another big move, and everything that starts when I get to RIC.

This Year

While at UTK, I’ve had a great balance of teaching experiences and time to focus on my own work. I was fortunate to teach a year-long graduate seminar (a two-course sequence) on the History of the English Language, which is the envy of everyone who’s ever tried to cram that subject into a single semester. On top of that, I taught undergraduate courses on World Literature I in the fall and Introduction to Old English in the spring. If that wasn’t already a cream of courses, I was also fortunate to work with a graduate student on an independent study in Old Norse–mostly filled with reading a large amount of sagas and tales, punctuated with language learning.

While much of my non-teaching time was taken up with the job market, I was also able to focus on some research and writing. Since I had just finished writing my dissertation over the summer (a complete version was submitted to my committee in late June), I set that project aside, knowing that I would return to revise into a book but also needing to give myself room to breathe before that. Instead, I worked on a few articles that were not unrelated to the larger project but did not fit within its scope–short projects I had worked on alongside the dissertation and was glad to return to when I had the time. I also worked on aspects of my Judith project, including a short article that grew out of that research. One was a short encyclopedia article on the same topic (apocrypha in Old English literature), as well as a few articles and a shorter note.

This Summer

I have a few projects to occupy me over the summer, including some conference papers and a few revise and resubmits. Over the past several months, I was also invited to contribute to two forthcoming projects, which I will work on in earnest (beyond notes to myself) this summer.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to jumping into revising my dissertation into a book. Throughout the year, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about this, exploring some new methodological and theoretical ideas. I’ve begun drafting a brand new chapter, incorporating some of these new directions. Over the summer, I hope to move forward with these. I’m especially looking forward to revising part of a chapter to prepare it as a paper for the York Apocrypha Symposium in September, with plans to publish it (so far, the only piece of the larger project that I plan to publish before the book).

Next Year

I’m excited to hit the ground running at RIC in the fall. I don’t yet know what I’ll teach for sure, although Literature of Medieval Britain is supposed to be part of my lineup. While I have more specific teaching and research goals for myself, I won’t spell them out here. Most of all, one of my primary goals is to seek out and foster more collaboration–in my teaching, my research, my writing. As I start to navigate that goal, I’m looking forward to new colleagues, new students, and new courses.

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