In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Colloquium: Administrative Perspectives on Chaucer Studies The State of Medieval Studies: A Tale of Two Universities Martin Camargo University of Illinois My administrative experiences as department chair may not have provided me with any unique insights into the current state of medieval studies. If anything, the many tasks that go into leading a large department have absorbed so much of my attention that I almost certainly have spent less time reflecting on the specific concerns facing medievalists during my four years as an administrator than during any comparable period of my twenty-six-year career as a practicing medievalist. Where I hope I might have something unique to contribute is in my experience as a medievalist who has both thought about and experienced the state of medieval studies at two different universities. Indeed, my perspective on those experiences may have been colored more than I realize by my having served as chair of English at each of those universities. Two years ago I made the most important and in some ways the most difficult decision of my professional career when I left my position as Professor and Chair of English at the University of Missouri at Columbia , where I had spent the previous twenty-three years, to become Professor and Head of English at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign . I had great affection for my colleagues at Missouri, who had just elected me to a second three-year term as department chair by a unanimous vote, and considerable loyalty to the institution that had fostered my development as a scholar and teacher of medieval literature. Nonetheless, I decided to accept the offer from Illinois for a variety of PAGE 239 239 ................. 11491$ $CH8 11-01-10 14:01:51 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER reasons, some of them obvious—the opportunity to lead a nationally ranked department, the superb research library, a significantly higher salary—others less so. As the university where I had done my doctoral work, Illinois also had claims to my loyalty and affection, but not least among my reasons for moving were the present state and future prospects of medieval studies at the two institutions. When I think of the present state of Chaucer studies or, as I prefer to do, of medieval studies more broadly, I do so not only from the perspective of both scholar-teacher and administrator but also, more fundamentally , in the context of the two institutions where I have spent most of my professional life. At first glance, the University of Missouri at Columbia and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have much in common. Both are research-intensive, land-grant universities. They are the flagship campuses of multicampus, public-university systems in contiguous states in the center of the country. Each is located in a small urban area surrounded by farmland and several hours’ drive from the major metropolitan areas that provide a majority of its undergraduate students. Each has struggled to compensate for declining state contributions as a share of its total operating budget, declines that have shifted from steady to precipitous in recent years. Nonetheless, despite these and other similarities, the position of medieval studies at Missouri is in many respects weaker now than it was when I first arrived there twenty-six years ago, while at Illinois it has become stronger over the same period. At least some of the causes of those contrasting trajectories illustrate the threats and opportunities that currently face medieval studies at all public research universities. The greatest threat to the future of medieval studies is the loss of tenure-track faculty positions, usually through the nonreplacement of a retired or departing faculty member. Such losses may be strictly related to budget constraints. Medievalist positions cut for budgetary reasons are often regarded as temporary losses. The assumption is that, when and if the budget situation improves, the vacancy will be filled, presumably with another medievalist, though probably at a lower rank and hence a lower salary. While losses of this sort sometimes prove in practice to be permanent, they are not the chief threat to faculty strength in medieval studies. More common, at least in my experience in large...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 239-247
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.