English scholar tapped for prestigious distinguished visiting professorship

Frank Grady, professor of English at UMSL

Frank Grady, professor of English at UMSL, is an expert on medieval literature and among the leading academic authorities on the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the canonical collection “The Canterbury Tales.” (Photo by August Jennewein)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Professor Frank Grady has taught at UMSL for more than 20 years and currently serves as the associate chair of the Department of English and director of the English MA program. But he will be taking a break from UMSL next year, as he has been named a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Carleton College has repeatedly ranked among the top 10 Liberal Arts colleges in the country.

Grady is an expert on medieval literature and was chosen for the prestigious visiting professorship because he is among the leading academic authorities on the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the canonical collection “The Canterbury Tales.”

“I went to graduate school thinking I would study the Renaissance and Shakespeare,” Grady says.

But at Berkeley he encountered the poem “Piers Plowman” by William Langland, a contemporary of Chaucer.

“It’s a wild philosophical dream vision, political satire and spiritual allegory all wrapped together and revised obsessively by its author over 25 years,” Grady says of the poem. “I’d never seen anything like it, and I was hooked on the medieval period.”

In the span of his career, Grady has edited Studies in the Age of Chaucer, the premier journal in middle English studies and one of the top journals in medieval studies. He has published prolifically about medieval literature, writing and editing several books and many academic articles. He wrote the preface to the paperback edition of “The Canterbury Tales” that most high school students read when they study this work of Chaucer’s.

It was because of all those accomplishments and more that Carleton has tapped Grady for the semester-long professorship, during which time he will teach a course on Chaucer and a survey of medieval literature.

Grady says he is of course excited to interact with the Carleton students as well as the English faculty there. An avid fisherman and bird watcher, Grady says he is also eager to explore the Cowling Arboretum, an 880 acre nature preserve attached to Carleton’s campus, plentiful with both aquatic and airborne wildlife.

“There aren’t too many northern pike to catch around St. Louis,” Grady quipped. “But there should be plenty in Minnesota.”

This story was written by Ryan Krull, a student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from UMSL.

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