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Maud McInerney in the classroom.
Maud McInerney in the classroom.

Getting Medieval

For Maud McInerney, professor of English and recent winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Excellence in Teaching Award, the middle ages continue to resonate in the twenty-first century.

For those who can recite every line of Monty Python & the Holy Grail, have seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Beowulf more than once, and get a thrill from watching knights joust at a renaissance fair, McInerney’s upcoming talk “Getting Medieval and Why it Matters”  will provide an explanation for this very modern obsession. But it certainly won’t stop there. McInerney insists that taking a more “academically rigorous approach” to all things medieval—even its representation in contemporary popular culture—can give us a better understanding of the issues of our own times. These issues, says McInerney, include everything “from the construction of gender and sexuality to the political rhetoric surrounding the notion of a ‘just war’ or even the use of torture. ‘Getting medieval’ thus comes to mean a great many things.”

“Getting Medieval and Why it Matters” is the second lecture in a series of talks given by Phi Beta Kappa award recipients. McInerney was nominated this year by her students to receive the society’s 2008 Excellence in Teaching Award. The instructor, who has taught here at Haverford for thirteen years, couldn’t be more surprised—or thrilled—by this recognition. “The [award] is especially meaningful to me,” she says. “I’m really moved to have been elected by this particular group.”

Dean of Academic affairs Phil Bean explains that Phi Beta Kappa members are asked to nominate a professor who has “most fueled your curiosity about, insight into, and love for a subject or discipline.” If it’s any indication of  McInerney’s knack for inspiring her students, her classes on medieval literature are consistently well-attended by majors and non-majors alike.

While McInerney credits the enduring popularity of the subject matter, Bean credits the professor’s exemplary ability to motivate her students, saying: “We are delighted to be able to confer this award on Maud, an individual who makes many admirable contributions to Haverford both inside and outside the classroom.”

“Getting Medieval and Why it Matters” will be presented in Sharpless Auditorium on Thursday, November 6 at 4:30. For more information, please contact Roxanne Clark at

--Monica Pace

The Strawbridge Observatory at Haverford College houses 12-inch and 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes which are actively used by students in Haverford astronomy classes.

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