OK, so this is not really another post in the old “know your archives series.” I have been meaning to get into the archives at Trinity College for months, and specifically the John Nelson Darby papers, but have not made it yet. This is really a post about “know your world” (and get the hell out of the archives for a while).
I have spent the academic year in Dublin, Ireland on a Fulbright. This has easily been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Living outside of the US has helped me to understand religion back home in new ways and to see what is and is not unique about faith in the US.
Per the stipulations of this particular Fulbright, I taught one class each semester at University College Dublin (UCD) and helped with some graduate training. UCD semesters run 11 weeks, and courses generally meet for 2 hours per week, so the burden is not onerous.
I also attended department meetings. These were surprisingly entertaining in that the chair—an early modernist—peppered discussions of important issues with dry, sarcastic and funny biblical metaphors (although with the budget crisis and austerity measures, those metaphors most often took the form of encouraging faculty to spread their arms and get ready to get nailed to the cross). UCD has a faculty club in the same building as the history department, which boasts a full bar. If only I could retreat from all department meetings in the states with a nice Irish whiskey.
The UCD staff and faculty work hard to free up the visiting American professor from most obligations in order to allow him/her to get as much research and writing done as possible. I have spent the year revising and polishing my forthcoming 2014 book on evangelical apocalypticism, which is still in desperate need of a sexy title like [Something Apocalpyse-y]: The Rise of Modern American Evangelicalism.
The Fulbright also provides numerous opportunities for visiting scholars to present their research and get critical feedback from faculty across Europe. While I did not give as many talks this year as Harvey and Blum (who did?), I presented my ongoing work all over Ireland, at Oxford, Cambridge, and King’s College, and across Germany. The Germans, apparently, love the Antichrist. I am heading over to Copenhagen next month for another talk, which is a ploy by Ray Haberski to get me to try new brews with him as our kids tear up parks around Denmark. I did not, however, give a talk at Northumbria (thanks for nothing Randall).
While I did not really think about the networking possibilities provided by the Fulbright when I applied, I now realize that this is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the program. After all, how else could I have toured pubs in Dublin, Cambridge, and London with Andrew Preston? Or gotten a Harry Potter tour from Stephen Tuck? Or debated Puritan premillennialism with Jan Stievermann?
I have learned some other important lessons this year as well:
- English mustard is good, even if the English are not.
- Brown sauce is the nectar of Satan.
- When in Frankfurt, do not book a room by the train station.
- Guinness is great, but not as good as the beer in the Pacific Northwest.
- I should no longer refer to houses built in the 1920s as “historic.”
- Benedict can read Latin really, really fast (something my family and I were grateful for at Christmas Eve mass at the Vatican!).
- Disneyland Paris is a lot dirtier than the real Disneyland (and no my Floridian friends, you do not have the real Disneyland). Old Walt’s obsessive-compulsive cleanliness has its benefits.
- If you go to the St. Patrick's Day parade, be prepared to be embarrassed by the behavior of your fellow countrymen. Drunk Texans in leprechaun suits can be painful to watch ya' all.
- It is hard to argue that looting and pillaging is all bad while enjoying the Louvre and the British Museum.
- Horse doesn’t taste half bad when you don’t know that it is in your hamburger meat. Thanks Tesco.
- I miss Mexican food. And football.
As exciting as life can be on the Palouse, my wife has had a great time here as well exploring the city with our four-year-old while our seven-year old is in school learning, among other things, to speak Irish--no doubt this will serve him well in the years to come. The boys have seen substantially more castles, churches, and museums this year than I had previously seen in my entire life. The Irish people are incredibly friendly, kind, and welcoming (even though I am not).
In sum, this has been a great year and place for obsessing over the apocalypse.