The Literature program welcomes Joey McMullen, Assistant Professor of English! He graduated from Harvard University in 2015 with his Ph.D. in English and Celtic Literatures and Languages. He brings to the department expertise in early medieval languages, collegiality and collaboration, and skills in ultimate frisbee (should anyone want to start an intramural team).
The Latest Additions
When he applied, Dr. McMullen was drawn towards the strengths and collaborative nature of the English Department, and especially pleased to be joining the other medievalist faculty in the department. His strengths in multilingualism, including Old English, Old Irish, and Middle Welsh, add to the breadth and diversity of what the department offers. Naming the Medieval Studies Institute (MEST) as a particular highlight of our “vibrant medieval community,” he welcomes the mentorship opportunities for younger scholars, and the global academic community it fosters. For example, the Medieval Academy of America, the largest organization in the United States devoted to medieval studies, will be hosting its annual meeting at Indiana University in 2021—truly a testament to MEST’s status in the wider scholarly community.
Dr. McMullen’s research is broadly concerned with medieval literary landscapes and connections between early medieval England and Ireland. His first book brings these interests together, tracing the cultural interplay between Irish and Old English literary landscapes. By illustrating how many Old English works recall Irish ways of writing about landscapes, his book argues that the British Isles were a “multilingual zone of exchange,” and that understanding better the cultural interplay and networks of transmission in the British Isles calls into question the “Englishness” of well-known texts such as Beowulf. Dr. McMullen’s research interests on landscape intersect with IU’s Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities. Graduate students interested in integrating new technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems mapping, can expect to lean on his expertise at future workshops. Along similar themes of “influence,” Dr. McMullen has also co-edited collections about the legacy and influences of major figures, including Gerald of Wales: New Perspectives on a Medieval Writer and Critic (2018), and The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England: The Consolation and its Afterlives (2018).
As a teacher, Dr. McMullen’s skills in early medieval languages, as well as his interest in the natural world, inform his course offerings. In Fall 2019, he taught an Introduction to the Advanced Study of Literature course themed around landscapes of trauma and conquest. He is drawing on his interest in YA Fantasy this Fall as he teaches an undergraduate seminar on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. Following in Dr. Fulk’s footsteps, he hopes to offer courses in Old Irish and Middle Welsh, in addition to the more frequent Old English (which he may look to convert into a course at the undergraduate level that graduate students can take).
Going forward, Dr. McMullen sees mentorship of graduate students as one of his priorities. He comes with an investment towards new job seekers, especially those who are interested in applying to small liberal arts colleges or schools with heavier teaching loads. Having previously worked at a SLAC (Centenary University), he is eager to offer strategies on how to place oneself in a challenging job market, and he is currently Chair of the department’s Job Placement Committee.
The English Department is also excited to welcome Clinical Assistant Professor Miranda Rodak, who will be taking over for Dr. Kathy Smith as the Director of Undergraduate Teaching. Dr. Rodak brings experience with a number of English composition courses, expertise in business writing, and dedication to working with teachers to her new role in the English Department.
Dr. Rodak received her M.A. in English from the University of Georgia. She came to IU in 2005 to pursue a Ph.D. in the Romantic Novel and, over the course of her time as a student, developed an interest in rhetoric. Her dissertation, which she describes as “a rhetorical project located in a literary period and interested in a literary phenomenon,” focused on the early rise of the publishing industry. This focus fostered an engagement with mediation and digital pedagogy that influences her teaching today. In her classes, Dr. Rodak frequently pushes her students to contemplate how technology relates to the future of the book and digital publishing.
Dr. Rodak quips that she “was a rhetoric student but didn’t know it,” but it’s also fair to say that she was a teaching administrator and didn’t know it until she became Assistant Director of W131. In this role, Dr. Rodak discovered what she calls a “deep and abiding love” not just for teaching, “but for teaching teachers and for helping teachers reflect and ask, why are we doing what we’re doing?” This reflection is at the heart of her teaching and informs her curriculum design and administrative work.
In 2012, Dr. Rodak took her expertise in digital pedagogy and teaching administration to work as a lecturer and curriculum designer at the Kelley School of Business. At Kelley, she designed Compass, a three-course sequence to guide business students through a critical thinking process. The Compass curriculum prompts students to reflect on why they want to pursue a business major. Dr. Rodak taught a number of classes in addition to working in Compass, including Professional Writing, and she was actively involved in LAMP, the Liberal Arts Management Program.
Today, Dr. Rodak’s scholarship focuses on active learning pedagogy and the science of learning. In 2018, she received the Active Learning Grant from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, which she used to create a series of active learning clinics to teach revision skills. Her long-term goal is to publish an open access active learning guide for these and other skills. Her dedication to active, innovative, and effective teaching goes beyond her digital work into the physical classroom. In 2018, Dr. Rodak won the FACET Annual Innovate Award, which recognizes passion and creativity in the classroom, and in 2019, she received the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award. To explain her teaching philosophy, she speaks of her overarching desire to empower her students to think intentionally. She talks about “The Matrix moment,” when a student realizes that “everything around you is choices, or a series of choices, and you have power within that template.” In addition to teaching students that they can and are empowered to choose for themselves, she encourages them to ask whether they are being intentional about these choices. Her pedagogy is as much about educating mindful citizens as it is teaching students to read, write, and think. This mindfulness reaches beyond Dr. Rodak’s classroom: attention to the power of choice shapes her administrative work, too. She strongly believes that we as teachers must be intentional about our choices—at the microlevel, in the classroom, and at the macrolevel, in higher education as a whole. This means that she is constantly reflecting and encouraging other teachers to reflect on how their class can serve students beyond a sixteen-week semester.
The Director of Undergraduate Teaching position brings together her scholarly interests, teaching experience, and skills in administration. Dr. Smith expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for Dr. Rodak, noting that the English Department is incredibly lucky for this new hire: “Miranda is a ball of energy; she is eager to make a contribution; she believes in what we’re doing; and she’s eager to promote the Department.”
Given Dr. Rodak’s ability to bring composition, literature, business, teaching, and administration together, each one of us has something to learn from our newest faculty member. We are excited to see where she leads us, and to see if Dr. Smith’s prediction will come true: “Miranda is going to be gangbusters.” Welcome to IU English, Dr. Rodak!
Editor’s note: The original version of this article contained significant discrepancies in the language used to refer to Dr. McMullen and to Dr. Rodak, and to their respective expertise and accomplishments. We deeply regret the oversight, we are grateful to the alumna who brought it to the department’s attention, and we and the department will work harder to avoid such lapses in the future. – Monique Morgan and Michael Adams