Know Your Archives, Part XIX

by Matt Sutton

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. 
So to the point—I cannot say enough about the value of this experience and I hope the readers of the blog will consider applying for Fulbrights in general, and especially the one that I currently have, the Mary Ball Washington Chair at UCD. Some years this chair draws really prestigious scholars—such as George McGovern, Stephen Ambrose, Peter Onuf, Kevin Boyle, Elaine Tyler May, and Harvard Sitkoff—but other years the competition must not be as stiff—after all, I got it. It pays better than most Fulbrights (it is funded by the Irish rather than the US government), the staff at UCD is wonderful, and there are few better places to live than Dublin.

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. 


Tom Ruffles said…
"English mustard is good, even if the English are not."

We are so going to miss you, but we promise not to generalise from your short visit to a view of your entire country.
Randall said…
We talked about your work . . . That might count.

Sounds like a great time this year. Looking fwd to the book.
Randall said…
Also... agreed about the beers of the Pacific Northwest. Real Ales are fine and dandy, but there's nothing like a heavily-hopped American IPA.
John G. Turner said…
Can't you get me some speaking invitations across Europe next year?
I promise at least three DK brews that are comparable to those at home. The Danes should be quite entertained by talk of the apocalypse--perhaps the alternative to their naturally brooding disposition?
Tom Van Dyke said…
M. Sutton, first things first--that list needs to become a book pronto before you forget. I think the Europeans would find it just as funny as this American does, since they're more fascinated with us than we are with ourselves.

[Our lack of self-consciousness is essential to our charm.]

To Matt the manperson, that you partook this great life adventure with family in tow--as your companions of choice--is perhaps the most remarkable thing about this of all. Special.

[And does explain why you got the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to a Guinness just a bit wrong. Unlike that otherwise worthy craftbrew stuff, Guinness is food, not drink.]

Matt Sutton said…
Tom, that's the nicest set of comments you have ever left for me. I will drink a Guinness in your honor tonight and call it dinner.
Randall said…
This will fit in the news-of-the-weird category. My friend who runs the record label Burnt Toast Vinyl out of philly recently issued a beer and record release with the Danish Mikkeller brewery. He may be shipping some over here to blighty for me. Fingers crossed:

My band used to be on the label. We never had the beer honor. Reissue with a Black IPA?
Joanne said…
Seems like it's been a great year, Matt!!!

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