This has meant a radical shift in teaching methods for nearly all English faculty. It has been hard work and incredibly time consuming, but we’ve risen to the occasion, and many of us feel we’ve learned some things about teaching and learning that will prove useful once we’re back in classrooms. Rather than say, “Oh, no, we have to teach online!” we’ve said — well, on most days — “How can we make this a great learning experience?” maybe not despite the new virtual mode but because of it.
Research programs of faculty and graduate students have also been disrupted. Imagine working on rare or archival materials at libraries in various places and being suddenly and for a long time cut off from that work, as libraries close and university-sponsored travel is restricted to what’s absolutely necessary. Because the digital text repository HathiTrust generously opened its collection to us, we have been able to consult many modern print books online, after the IU libraries closed their stacks. Often, though, in the course of research, you don’t know what you need to read until you encounter it — targeted searches aren’t always the most productive research mode. Still, we’ve managed to meet the research challenges we face reasonably well.
This issue of our annual newsletter has been delayed somewhat by the effects of the pandemic, but better late than never, and we wanted to share some of our recent experiences and successes, as well as provide you with food for thought. For instance, you can read Professor Linda Charnes on moving from face-to-face to online courses. Professor Ivan Kreilkamp explores the value and pleasure of reading Margaret Oliphant’s too-little-read novel Miss Marjoribanks — I suspect he’s not the only one among us to pick up a big, absorbing novel this year.
Professor Adrian Matejka’s term as Indiana Poet Laureate is recounted within these pages, too. You can read about Professors John Schilb and Christine Farris, who retired last year, as well as new members of the faculty, Professors Joey McMullen and Miranda Rodak. Professor McMullen specializes in Old English and early Celtic languages and ecocriticism; Professor Rodak, a graduate of our Ph.D. program who taught at the Kelley School of Business and in the Liberal Arts and Management Program, joins us as Director of Undergraduate Teaching. We also remember Professor Jim Justus, who joined the department in 1961. His death in March 2019 was a great loss to many of us.
Class notes allow you keep up with the accomplishments of alumni. Notes on faculty accomplishments reconnect you with your favorite teachers and suggest the range, depth, and significance of faculty research, along with some other successes. The list of graduate student accomplishments and honors is gratifyingly long; and we wanted you to know which undergraduates had distinguished themselves during the last year, too. In all our successes, in classrooms and libraries, at the keyboard, or taking literature to the public, we benefit from your interest and support, and we’re very grateful for them.
One wonders what the next year will bring. I already know some of the news — and some of that is breathtakingly good — that properly belongs to 2021, and I look forward to sharing it with you then. In the meantime, be safe, be as happy as our circumstances allow, read books, and write to us with news of you, if you have the chance.
Provost Professor and Chair, Department of English
Indiana University at Bloomington