A Sabbatical with No Snow

Though we miss them while they’re gone, we love to hear all about the things our professors do while on sabbatical.  Dr. Inboden is no different:

When I chose a spring semester for my sabbatical, I did so with a bit of luxurious anticipation; I imagined waking up to falling snow in a house well-stocked with cinnamon tea and raspberry jam for toast, knowing that I didn’t have to go anywhere. The mounting snow would create a hush in which I could read and write for long hours, cut off from the outside world. I have apparently picked the wrong year, weatherwise, for that particular fantasy.

But the reading and writing has gone forward nonetheless, though not with the accompanying romance of being snowbound. One of the key projects I planned for this sabbatical was to propose a critical edition of a Victorian work. Such a project appeals to several of my strengths: attention to detail, fascination with historical contexts, and tenacity in research. The first step would be to settle on a work in which the publisher might be interested. I had already developed a short list of intriguing works not easily available in an up-to-date critical edition. The first part of my sabbatical has been spent reading and re-reading some of the works on that list.

Here’s the thing: there’s a reason that Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey, her first novel, isn’t widely discussed. It’s a pale prelude to her wonderful Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In fact, it almost doesn’t seem like a novel at all until more than halfway through its length, but like the bitter diary of a young woman complaining about her rotten luck in life. agnes_greyAnne still had much to learn about creating characters and telling incident—something she mastered in her second novel, but not her first. Sadly, I’m not sure it’s a novel that requires a new edition. I’ve been reading a number of hard-to-find Victorian novels as well as lesser-known works by major authors, and I’ve narrowed down my choices. I’ve also learned a lot about the whole landscape of Victorian fiction, not just the masterworks I usually teach. I think I’ll be writing an initial query to the publisher soon.

Of course, that’s not the only thing I’m doing on my sabbatical. I’m also working on some personal essays, one on my growing obsession with early 20th-century glass and pottery, especially that tureens-2produced in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The transformation of the sand, clay, and coal of the Appalachian hills into sparkling pieces of craft with whimsical names speaks to my eyes and my heart. Reading that sentence, I feel that I’ve officially become an old lady—but I’m okay with that.

And before this sabbatical is through—not until August, really—I will have made some significant revisions to a couple of my courses, especially English 101. Focusing deeply on reading, writing, and pondering without distraction feeds something important in me. I will be back in the fall renewed, rested, and revived with optimism that I’m giving my best to my students—even without a snow day.

–  Dr. Inboden


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