Brantley Bryant - Rebooting the Middle Ages for the 21st Century

bryantsm.jpg"Studying literature is good for you," says Dr. Brantley Bryant of the English department. "Encountering literary texts helps develop sympathy, imagination, and critical thinking skills suited to a changing world. Playing around with books is fun, but it can also generate truly new solutions for the pressing problems of our society."

In his teaching, Bryant aims to help students hone their skills as perceptive interpreters and to connect them to the rich resources contained within the diverse traditions of literature in English.

Bryant joined the SSU faculty as an assistant professor in the fall of 2007 after completing his Ph. D. in English at Columbia University, specializing in medieval British literature. Bryant's doctoral dissertation focused on the connections of politics and poetry in fourteenth-century England, expressing his interest in the political and social power of literature.

As a member of the English department, Bryant teaches a variety of courses to meet the needs of majors and non-majors at all stages of their SSU experience. Bryant teaches first-year composition courses, general education courses, and English-major courses on literary criticism, literary theory, and, his favorite, Greco-Roman and Norse mythology.


He also teaches senior and M. A. level courses on his specialty, medieval literature. Recent course titles include, "Sex, Sin, and Society in Chaucer," "King Arthur and England," and "Medieval Literature and the Boundaries of the Human."


In the classroom, Bryant celebrates what he calls "the unique weirdness of the university" by employing games, group work, and creative projects. Whether it's having students act out Greek tragedy, plan their own scholarly journal, or play chess with pens, keys, and coffee cups to discuss Ferdinand de Saussure's ideas about language, Bryant tries to let no class go by without some memorable moment.


Bryant's publications have continued the blend of historical and literary investigation he explored in his dissertation. He has published articles on extortion and taxation in medieval poetry in the journals The Chaucer Review and Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History.


Over the years, Bryant has also developed an interest in new critical modes, that is, forms of scholarly publication that adapt and refine the traditional scholarly article by employing creative work, digital-age genres, and new forms of collaboration.


In this vein, Bryant has written articles on blogging and medieval studies, on the pedagogy of the medieval literature classroom, and on medieval "afterlives" in popular culture, including the works of H. P. Lovecraft and J. R. R. Tolkien. Bryant uses his scholarship to generate new ideas for classes and to explore the larger cultural significance of the literature that he teaches.


Dr. Bryant is committed to developing his students' skills as interpreters, lovers of literature, informed citizens, and problem-solvers. He believes that in-person, face-to-face education in a university is a unique space in our society: a special laboratory of ideas in which true innovation can occur.

Dr. Brantley Bryant has been named the recipent of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award. Details on the award can be found at http://www.sonoma.edu/senate/useful/excelinteach.html.

Subscribe to SSU NewsCenter