From Camelot to Sherwood Forest, Lorraine Stock has taken students on a host of literary adventures. Now, the University of Houston associate professor of English will venture into new research territories with the aid of the Bonnie Wheeler Summer Research Fellowship.
Medieval expert Stock is the inaugural recipient of this award. Named for the noted scholar Wheeler, this fellowship honors female medievalists and provides support for research projects conducted between June 1 and Dec. 31.
“I am honored to receive this fellowship,” she said. “I admire Professor Wheeler’s work, and it is very flattering to receive an award that is named for her. Also, this is a highly competitive award. I am pleased that I can represent UH as its very first recipient.”
The award will support Stock in her efforts to complete a monograph, “The Medieval Wild Man: Primitivism and Civilization in Medieval Europe” to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. The concept of the Wild Man in medieval literature evolved from a bestial brute (as depicted in 12th-century literature) into a noble savage (in works published in the 15th and 16th centuries). Stock describes this character as being similar to 20th-century legends such as Sasquatch/Bigfoot. Her book will address the notion that in many 12th-century works the Wild Man often is less feral and more sympathetic than many civilized characters.
“This argument will fly in the face of all of the established notions of the Wild Man,” she said. “I plan to prove that there was cultural ambivalence toward nature and the primitive that dates back to the 12th century. This argument refutes a widely held scholarly attitude and addresses the idea of embracing nature. We can trace our current green movement back to the 12th century through these depictions of the Wild Man.”
While Stock’s research interests are focused on the Middle Ages, her teaching methods use 21st-century technology including customized web pages, video clips, podcasts, and other electronic tools. Such classroom innovations helped Stock earn a UH Teaching Excellence Award in Educational Technology in 2008. Last year, she received funding from UH’s Quality Enhancement Plan Curriculum Grants for the undergraduate course “Robin Hood: From Medieval Outlaw to Postmodern Media Creature.” She will teach the course again this fall, as well as a graduate course exploring how Robin Hood and medieval literary characters have been adapted into popular media. This summer, she is travelling to a Robin Hood conference in Beverley, England, to deliver a keynote lecture on how 16th-century plays helped change the popular conception of both Robin Hood and the Wild Man.