Medieval Lit. Scholar Tenured
"Rising Star" Tapped to Fill Retirement Vacancies
Nicholas Watson, an English professor at Western Ontario University and an expert on medieval literature, will join the Harvard faculty as a tenured professor in the English department.
Watson was chosen in a year-long world-wide search to fill the gap in the English department faculty left by the recent retirement of noted medieval scholars Derek Pearsall, Gurney professor of English Literature, and Larry D. Benson, Higginson professor of English literature.
"Watson is a rising star in Medieval studies and a splendid teacher as well
as scholar and we are delighted that he will be joining us," English department
chair and Marquand professor of English Lawrence Buell wrote in an email.
Professor of English Daniel Donoghue, who served on the committee that selected Watson, said Watson was somewhat of an unlikely candidate given that he is only in his early forties. But, Donoghue said, he is nonetheless a well-respected scholar.
"We were highly impressed with everything we read by him," Donoghue said.
According to Buell, Watson is interested in religion and literature and in the rise of vernacular culture, which deals with the "re-emergence of English as a medium of expression in the later Medieval world after the Norman conquest," Buell wrote.
The study of vernacular culture, according to Donoghue, often involves
reading literature that is not well-known.
"[He is] concerned with lesser known writers and authors who have only recently begun to get attention," Donoghue said.
Watson's interest in the personal and social aspects of teaching, according to Donoghue, make him well-suited to continue the legacy of Pearsall, who was well-liked by students.
"Like Derek Pearsall, [Watson] is very much concerned with cultivating the personal side of the profession," Donoghue said.
According to Donoghue, Pearsall organized many conferences and seminars on Medieval literature "to keep the vitality of the profession going within Medieval literature." Pearsall was a popular lecturer-he taught English 10a-and an administrator.
Watson will begin teaching in the Fall of 2001. He will teach a seminar on "Sir Gawain," a story published in the 14th century by an anonymous author. He will also teach a lecture course on Chaucer as well as a number of other seminars.
Visiting professor David Benson had temporarily filled Pearsall's and Larry D. Benson's old role after Pearsall retired last year. David Benson this year was named a Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut and will not teach at Harvard.