By: Morin Mawhinney
TC: What position do you hold at UPEI?
Professor of Medieval English
TC: Why did you choose to become a professor in Academia?
I just loved it so much I couldn’t leave it! Really that’s the reason; I just loved the university, I loved graduate school. I just really love research. I really love teaching. It was just I worked at other things along the way but it was the only job I really had the passion for.
TC: And why English specifically?
That’s interesting, actually. I started out with a double honors in English and Religious Studies. I was working on graduate work in Religious Studies, and my husband was in Religious Studies also. Then I had to stop in the middle of a Ph. D because I was pregnant. He got a job and we moved. I went back partly because there was a Ph. D program at the University close to us in English and not in Religious studies, and partly because I decided it’d be better if we were in different departments; then I took two courses on Medieval Literature in my first year of graduate school and I was just hooked. Absolutely hooked.
TC: What University was this?
TC: Are you working on anything currently?
I am! I am working on two major projects. One is an edition of a middle english translation of thirteenth century latin text. I’m working on how that translation is used in two different manuscripts, and eventually that will be an edition. Actually it should’ve been an edition by the end of this summer, but that didn’t happen!
That’s a project that’s finishing, and then the project that I’m just beginning is I’m working with a colleague down in the states and we want do an edition of fourteenth century text that has been very little studied but it’s a compilation of two mainstreams of thought; one from some middle english text that I just finished editing, and one from some latin text that she’s been working on. We want to edit it and make it accessible, because people are interested in it but there’s no accessible edition of it. It’s very little studied, but it’s a very important text. We’re in the middle of writing a grant application that, we hope, will get us over to England to see the manuscripts. They’re going to be aimed at both scholars and students, and in very accessible teaching editions. We want to include students in our audience.
TC: What do you feel you contribute most to the University, through teaching?
I hope that I introduce students to the love of literature. That when they leave us, they love literature the way we do; and that they learn how literature can help make us better people. That reading opens up whole new vistas. So when they leave us, our students are prepared for lifelong learning; they are prepared to read both for the joy and for the horizons it opens up.
TC: So learning doesn’t end when you graduate from University?
Absolutely not! You keep going, boy. If you don’t keep going, we haven’t done our job.
TC: How do you stay so passionate about the stories after you read and teach them, time and time again?
First of all, I try to choose things to teach that I love, because if I’m not passionate about it, you’re not going to be passionate about it. So [Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thy to a summer’s day?] is a poem that just never fails to grab my interest. And every once in awhile, not with this sonnet, I’ll change things up. I’ll do a different author or different text, although the thing about Literature 121 is that it’s a course I’ve taught so many times that I don’t need notes. I can just go in there and do it, but also every time you teach a course, it’s different! It’s different students, it’s different atmosphere so I ask a question, and I get different answers every single time. I learn as much from my students as they do from me, especially as we go into the upper levels where our classes are smaller, and our students are more…secure, maybe? In their own knowledge. Every time I teach a particular text, someone has something to say that’s new!
TC: What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve had as a professor?
Oh god! I have no idea! I don’t know…well I love graduation every year. I love watching you guys walk across that stage. I love it when the students come back after they’ve graduated and they bring their babies to show us and they include us in their lives. There are some students that become very special. It’s really, really wonderful. You know, I don’t really do Facebook much, but I have a Facebook account and so some of my students that have been very special are on my Facebook and I hear the little moments in their lives, like when they get married.
TC: What’s your favourite thing to teach?
Medieval literature, obviously. My favourite course is the Survey of Medieval Literature, I get to look at different genres. I don’t really have a favourite THING. I kinda like it all!
TC: Outside of school, what do you fill your time with?
Well I have a horse and dogs! I tend to spend time with them. I love to read; I always have a book on my iPad, not academic books, but novels. One of my favourite things to do is to sit outside in the sunshine with the dogs, throw a ball for them and read a book. I also do needlepoint, but I’m finding now that my eyes aren’t as strong as they used to be.