After years of hard work as Chair of our History Department, Dr. Jestice has taken a well-deserved sabbatical this semester. She recently shared her “Sabbatical Thoughts” with us.
I’m on sabbatical this semester. For those who don’t know: universities expect roster faculty members to teach well (of course!), to engage in service activities, and to be actively researching and publishing scholars. The problem with the last item is that, for most people in most academic disciplines, scholarship really requires at least some uninterrupted time for work and thought. It often gets buried by teaching and service. So a benign spirit ages ago came up with the idea of the sabbatical—a time when the faculty member is released from teaching and service and can work full time on scholarship.
After 15 years of being on constant call as department chair, I’m FINALLY on sabbatical this semester, and picked the ideal time for it! For the past 2-1/2 years, I’ve researched a new project whenever I could carve out a little window of opportunity, and I timed it perfectly. I officially closed my research phase on August 13, spent two weeks sorting my notes and outlining my plans, and on August 27th broke ground writing a new book. What I’m working on is tentatively called Daughters of Jerusalem: Women, Newcomers, and the Shaping of the Latin East. It studies how the many marriages of heiresses with mail-order husbands that took place in the twelfth-century crusader states really shaped the region.
I worried about having an entire semester on my hands with nothing on the calendar but my violin lessons, but so far it’s a real joy. I’ve set up a schedule of at least two 2-hour writing blocks a day. If I don’t want to work on the book past that, I can read about Celts; I’ve started prepping for a new spring course on the Celtic Fringe in the Middle Ages. Or I can read and think a bit about my next project. Or stop for a bit and pet the cat. The best thing is that I’ve already gotten into a rhythm, building on each day’s work without fear of interruption. It’s a time of productive rest, recharging batteries that have run down over the past years, and feeding the scholarly side of my life that has so often been shortchanged. Thank you to the College of Charleston for honoring the sabbatical I was granted even in such trying times.” — Dr. Phyllis G. Jestice