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2008-09 University Professor Josephine Bloomfield

May 27, 2008  

Each year, the student body rewards four to five university faculty for their teaching excellence and overall contributions to higher education with the title of University Professor. The 2008-09 honorees are Josephine Bloomfield, Jennifer Chabot, Barry Tadlock, Nancy Tatarek and Scott Titsworth.

Josephine Bloomfield, Department of English

I got my Ph.D. at the University of California at Davis in 1991.

I am a medievalist, so many of the courses I teach deal with literature from the 7th  to 14th centuries, such as the Old English "Beowulf" and the Middle English poetry of Chaucer, works on which I have published numerous articles. 

Many English majors and integrated language arts majors, however, encounter me in History of the English Language, a challenging course required by both programs and one that synthesizes external history with linguistic history and theory. 

My current research project is focused on the medieval theology and science of light, which I have named "theoptics." It looks at the ways medieval -- and even current -- understandings of the universe, ranging from poetry to ideas of God, have been influenced by classical and medieval optics.

Because I teach such difficult, arcane subjects and regularly push my students beyond what they believe they can do, I think my University Professor nomination is proof that Ohio University students really do take pleasure in thinking hard and working hard, and their pleasure has been my pleasure, too. 

I am deeply indebted to my smart, funny, hard-working students for this award, and to the extraordinary University Professor Selection Committee, whose diligence, professionalism, intelligence and wonderful humor have made me very proud to be affiliated with this institution.



Related Links
Five inducted into 'Teaching Hall of Fame': http://www.ohio.edu/outlook/07-08/May/552.cfm 
Department of English: http://www.english.ohiou.edu/  
Bloomfield's faculty page: http://www.english.ohiou.edu/directory/faculty_page/bloomfield/  

Published: May 27, 2008 8:27 AM  

Josephine Bloomfield
Josephine Bloomfield

Course I will teach via my University Professor Award 

Light of Philosophy, Light of God, Light of Dreams

Light and vision in medieval poetry, philosophy and theology have complexities and resonances that are barely within our grasp today. Even the Greek science that grounded the Christian medieval world in an Earth-centered universe was not easily untangled on this issue: The Greeks themselves split on theories of light and vision, with Aristotle attacking and opposing Plato's theory that vision originated from "the fire in the eye."

But while both Plato and Aristotle at least agreed that the origin of physical light in the universe was the sun, Christians had a competing authority in the Book of Genesis, which said that God created light ("Let there be light") three days before he created the sun. This pre- and trans-sun light posed a philosophical, poetic, theological and scientific conundrum for the Christian Middle Ages that, as we'll see in this class, continues to texture our understanding and experience of light, literature and the world today.

This class will focus on important moments in classical, late antique and medieval light and literature, particularly dreams and visions, to resee the ways that we have come through theology, allegory, poetry, mirrors, dreams and questions of the spirit to our current state of illumination.



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