Research Spotlight: Dr. Kevin Whetter
Research Spotlight aims to shed light on the diverse research culture of Acadia University by celebrating the work and interests of our researchers. Each profile features six questions: five about research, one just for fun. Learn about what’s happening across campus and get to know the faces you see every day.
Dr. Kevin Whetter | English and Theatre | Faculty of Arts
In terms of research, what are you working on right now?
I have too many things on the go at the moment, though they are all interconnected and all related to my principal research interest. Although most of my research to date has been me working on my own, many of these current projects are collaborative.
I am, for instance, just finishing what are hopefully the final editorial-requested changes to a chapter on the mediaeval manuscript and modern editions of Sir Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-century Arthuriad, Le Morte Darthur [sic]. This chapter is co-authored with a colleague in the States, Thomas H. Crofts, and was commissioned for a new Companion to Malory to be published by the leading press in my field.
I am also working on two books and two articles with another colleague, Fiona Tolhurst. Fiona is now at Florida Gulf Coast University but was a Harrison McCain Visiting Fellow at Acadia a few years’ back. That Visiting Fellowship was so successful that what was supposed to be one project has quickly grown to four.
First, we are nearing completion of the first draft of a book reassessing Malory’s English sources and their influence on Malory.
Second, we are co-editing a special issue of the journal Arthuriana, due out later this year. The special issue focuses on the undeservedly maligned Middle English Arthurian poem known as the stanzaic Morte Arthur.
Third, we were both asked if we would contribute a conference paper and subsequent article to a research project on scholarly retractions or new challenges to commonplace scholarship, and after some (careful) consultation with one another, we figured out it would be easiest to pull a chapter from the book and stick it in this project instead: happily, the scholar running this retractions project agreed.
Finally, Fiona and I are co-editing a new teaching text (or classroom edition) of Malory’s Morte Darthur. Since the edition was commissioned by Broadview Press it’s obviously quite an honour to be asked, but it is also a frightening amount of work. It is, though, a project that allows for a lot of student interaction and research assistance, so if I want something else to do I may apply for a grant to fund some student assistantships and some extra manuscript research that I think could allow us to make a real impact with this edition.
How does that fit with your broader research interests?
It’s all pretty much spot on. My main interest is Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, the last text in mediaeval England to retell the story of King Arthur. I’m also interested in genre theory, mediaeval manuscripts, heroic literature, and fifteenth-century knighthood, but despite occasional claims to the contrary, I have thus far in my career explored one or more of those various issues as a means of further elucidating Malory’s text. I did once manage to join the twentieth century long enough to knock off a co-authored article on The Lord of the Rings, but even that is concerned with mediaeval and mythological undercurrents in Tolkien’s text. So I’m pretty firmly mediaeval in my research interests.
What most motivates you to do research?
If I knew that I could market my strategies and go on a researcher self-help publicity tour! Happily, I really enjoy both the teaching and the research aspects of the job, so the motivation is always there: sometimes I will get a reaction to something I’m reading or teaching, and that will start the project; other times, something random just pops into my head and I sit down and try to figure out whether or not the idea is viable.
I’ve also been incredibly fortunate in that my work has been noticed and supported by some senior scholars from early on in my career. Thus, from time to time, I’ve been asked by someone who exists in many of my dissertation footnotes if I would be willing to contribute something to a project she or he was putting together: the threatened shame of disappointing a senior scholar whose work you admire is quite motivating!
What tips do you give your students when they embark on a new research project?
Not to get discouraged; to stick at it; to accept that it is normal to face setbacks or find the research to go less smoothly than you had anticipated. I also try to convince them not to be afraid to stick their necks out and make a claim they believe in, even if it means disagreeing with the experts.
Do you have any forthcoming publications, events, or talks we should look out for?
Well, there are several forthcoming publications, but they are all quite firmly in the early than later stages, so it will be a while. The first thing out will be the 2018 special issue of Arthuriana devoted to the stanzaic Morte Arthur. But 2017 was a heck of a year research-wise. Last January, my latest monograph, The Manuscript and Meaning of Malory's Morte Darthur: Rubrication, Commemoration, Memorialization, was published, and last April, the premiere journal in mediaeval studies published a lengthy article of mine, with the journal cover image tied to the article, so I’m quite pleased with both of those accomplishments.
Tell me, what are you reading, watching, or listening to for fun these days?
Most of my reading at the moment is work-based in one way or another, but for sheer musical fun, I’m pretty hooked on Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.
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