In working on one of the other projects I have going on at the moment, I had occasion to look back over some of my older work in it. (This webspace isn’t the only ongoing concern I have, to be sure.) Doing so occasioned the usual wincing at some of the much earlier writings, the rue that I had once thought some of the dreck I pushed out was worth pushing out. (It’s not as if I were being paid for the work and faced a deadline. And now I have to wonder about such being said about some of my other writing…) It also reminded me and prompted me to discuss some of what took me into the pursuit of a scholarly job in the first place; it’s something I can return to without worry at this point, which was a relief.
It’s quickly evident that such scholarly agenda as I have had has focused on medieval English literature and the practice of teaching English. More of the work I’ve ended up doing, though (and not all of which shows up on my CV), has been of what might be called a lighter nature. I’ve worked with fantasy literatures, chiefly Robin Hobb’s writings, as well as with RPG materials (of which I’ve discussed some in recent weeks in this webspace), and I have a healthy strain of taurascatological work under my belt. (I am aware that all work in the academic humanities can fall under that rubric. I’m not going to have that argument right now, though.) I’ve not always been ready to admit to it–and even now, when I am more or less out of academe and largely free to pursue such studies (amid the limitations imposed by my restricted institutional affiliation), I find that I talk about it in terms of admitting to the work, rather than celebrating it.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, I do enjoy working with medieval materials. They’re neat, and there’s something about holding objects hundreds of years old that thrills. I do not regret doing the work on the materials themselves–at least, not more than I regret much of the experience of academe. But I do think that focusing on them ended up being to my detriment in terms of finding full-time academic work. I’ve noted elsewhere that I am but one of many, many medievalists; I am one of far fewer scholars of fantasy literature and RPGs. And I think that I would have been a “sexier” candidate working with less…formal materials than Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. And I think that I would have ended up showing more joy in my work had I allowed myself to focus more on the “lighter” work I tend to do anymore. I’d’ve gotten more enjoyment from following more jokes than I have, and I think it would have come out in the work, helping me both to do more of it (so I’d be more likely to get hired) and to do better at it (so I’d be more likely to get hired).
If academic work is a calling, I heard more than one, and I answered one of the quieter calls made to me.