2/04/2010

Huber Takes Students Back to the Middle Ages

  • http-blogs-fandm-edu-wp-content-blogs-dir-29-files-2012-04-ehuber-jpg Emily Huber, assistant professor of English

In her third-floor office inside the Keiper Liberal Arts Building, Emily Huber talks about the role of human emotions in medieval literature. After a few minutes, the newest member of the Department of English at Franklin & Marshall College takes a detour from her professional life to discuss her varied interests away from campus.

Emotion, however, is still central to the conversation. Huber's own emotion—passion—now radiates through the room, as the professor displays an energetic wit in talking about everything from horse riding to ice hockey, and from Indian food to PlayStation video games. It is the same energy she uses to discuss her primary academic love, medieval literature.

"From an early age, I knew I was interested in the medieval period," Huber says. "Just as there are huge differences between 18th- and 20th- century literature, there are big differences between Beowulf and Chaucer in medieval literature."

In her dissertation at the University of Rochester, Huber focused on human emotion, specifically depression, in medieval writing. "Today, there's always an interest in problems relating to contemporary clinical depression, and how it's perceived, diagnosed and treated," she says. "It's interesting to see how depression in medieval literature relates to depression in 20th- and 21st-century society."

Huber is interested in "gloomy topics," a fitting point considering she wrote her dissertation in Rochester, where "for six months it was cloudy, with tons of snow and no sunshine." She particularly enjoys constructing theories about why individuals kill each other in Beowulf.

After leaving upstate New York, Huber spent a year at Adrian College, where she taught composition and survey courses. She then took a one-year position at Duke University, which allowed her to teach courses on topics closer to her areas of expertise: Chaucer and medieval women.

"One of the reasons I was excited to come to F&M is that I can teach courses in my interests," says Huber, who is teaching Arthurian Legends, Studies in Medieval Literature and Tolkien's Mythology this semester. "I also like the small class sizes, and the discussions students can have with each other and with professors."

Huber is familiar with Lancaster, having grown up just about an hour away in Wilmington, Del. In fact, she is a veteran of one of Lancaster's popular children's destinations. "My mother used to take me to Dutch Wonderland, I'm embarrassed to admit," she says with a smile. "But I like Lancaster better than what my impressions had been. I didn't expect it to be this nice, thriving, urban community."

Outside the classroom, Huber is an animal lover. She has been riding horses since the age of 7, and currently leases a horse in Reinholds. "In an alternate universe, I would have been a show jumper," she says. "When I'm riding, I sort of have a soft spot for Gringolet (Sir Gawain's famous horse in medieval literature). In the Middle Ages, people were dependent on horses much like we're dependent on cars, but they don't write much about them."

Huber is also a passionate fan of ice hockey, especially the Detroit Red Wings, and to a lesser extent, the Philadelphia Flyers. When she is not watching hockey, she might be scouring the shelves of Lancaster's two Indian grocery stores, or playing video games (BioShock2, Fallout and Halo are some of her favorites).

But these days, the Middle Ages occupy most of Huber's time—and passion.

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