There are many different reasons scholars decide to further their education and take on the role of a teacher. Professor Brantley Bryant is an English professor whose love for the language began at a very young age.
“As a kid, I was a reader and would lose myself in books. As I grew older, I realized how important it was to think about the way texts were created and the way books have shaped our ideas and history,” said Bryant. “I love words and stories. Teaching literature is a wonderful way to talk about a lot of good and bad books with people, and to think very carefully about the power of language.”
When a professor states he or she is an English professor, it doesn’t always mean they are simply in love with grammar and grading essays.
Bryant specializes in medieval literature, mythology and the female perspectives in literature.
“Medieval literature is fascinating because it is, in some ways, very familiar. There are many ideas and institutions from the Middle Ages that appear in our mainstream U.S. culture today,” said Bryant. “On the other hand, medieval literature shows a very different society, one with fundamentally different ideas and ways of life.”
Bryant stated medieval literature provides a different insight of the world with good stories as well as beautiful poetry.
As many who have studied English and history know, it was uncommon for women to publish literature, especially medieval literature, in the middle ages.
Bryant stated he believes it is important to emphasize the writing of women in the Middle Ages because there is a stereotype that only men wrote in the Middle Ages.
“There is a little truth to this; certainly, the vast majority of medieval texts are written by men. But that doesn’t mean we should overlook a writer like Marie de France, an amazing poet and storyteller who is perhaps the first female author in the English tradition,” said Bryant.
Many students connect with Bryant because of his love for Tolkien, who is the author of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
“I think Tolkien gave an amazing gift to medieval literature because he got so many people interested in it through his work. Tolkien was actually a medieval literature teacher. A lot of people who read and loved ‘The Hobbit’ as kids, went on to read the poems Tolkien loved and studied like, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ or ‘Beowulf,’” said Bryant.
Bryant believes there is a whole generation or more of medieval scholars who got their start from reading Tolkien as a child.
“Funny enough, Tolkien’s translation of the poem ‘Beowulf’ is being published this year to great fanfare, right as the movies of ‘The Hobbit’ are everywhere. The road goes ever on and on,” said Bryant.
Even if one is not interested in English, Bryant encourages students to think of themselves first and foremost as scholars.
“A university is a unique place in our culture for the creation of knowledge. People interested in a universe of academic topics gather together to produce knowledge,” said Bryant. “In a university, we revive and adapt old traditions and we create new ideas. Students are scholars who are part of this vital work.”