Welcome to UWaterloo’s English Language and Literature’s newest Assistant Professor, John Savarese. I was fortunate that John was able to fit in an interview, in between everything else that moving cities, countries, and campuses involves. Thank you to John for participating! –JLH
JLH: You’re coming to us from California; what was the response from your US colleagues about your relocation to Canada and our institution?
JLS: I’ve found that relocating often seems like second nature to academics! Everyone was very happy to see the department continue to expand its faculty. The other thing, which I probably should have expected, was the huge number of Waterloo-related puns I’ve now heard from my fellow Romanticists: Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo was a watershed moment in the period, and there’s pretty broad punning potential there.
JLH: Now that you’re here, what are your plans?
JLS: This Fall term I’m helping to pilot a new course design in composition, and also teaching a wide-ranging survey in British Literature (200A). I love teaching courses related to particular, period-based research, but it’s also refreshing–and very helpful for the writing process, too–to teach more broadly, to think about longer histories and wider contexts. The major item on my research agenda is to get my book project into its final form. It’s called Romanticism’s Other Minds: The Science of Poetry from Hume to Mill, and it really took shape during the two years I spent on postdoctoral fellowships. I’ll spend most of my time whipping the manuscript into shape, and also pursuing a few related smaller projects that touch on topics like evolutionary theory, the popular ballad, and media studies. I’ll also be organizing the department’s speaker series this year. There are a few exciting events in the works already, so look for some announcements soon!
JLH: Has anything surprised you so far?
JLS: I’ve been just a little surprised by how populated the campus has been during the summer months. Most universities at which I’ve worked have had well-attended summer sessions, but the trimester system and Co-op program are new to me. I’ve also been struck by how strangely familiar the campus architecture seems. When I was a graduate student at Rutgers, I lived for several years on the part of campus that was built around the same time and in a similar style. Of course, that was a few minutes’ walk from the football stadium, complete with weekend tailgate parties, hoards of fans, and the like—so the different relationship between higher education and sports culture is also something worth noting.
JLH: Finally, a fun question: in the midst of chaos and relocation and unpacking, what books are getting read around your house right now?
JLS: During hectic moving periods I like to dip into old favorites; this time I carried poetry by James Merrill and Adrienne Rich, and also reread Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, which I seem to return to every few years. Now that the boxes are unpacked there’s also a long list of scholarly titles on my agenda–right now I’m most of the way through Robert Mitchell’s book Experimental Life, on “experimentalism” in literature and the sciences. We also read a lot of children’s books. My wife Elizabeth is trained as a reading specialist, and we’re very keen on making a wide range of books available to our son James: things that help with his reading development, or just about anything that will pique his interest. Lately he’s been very interested in the Mes 100 premiers mots picture dictionary he took out of Waterloo Public Library.