From Rock ‘n Roll to poetry: What professors do on sabbatical



Dr. Dennis McDaniel, associate professor of English, spent his first semester away from teaching since he began at the college in the Fall of 1979.

“That’s thirty-eight years, so it was kind of disorienting at first,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel and Dr. William Snyder, professor of English, both shared the details about their recent sabbaticals – a leave of teaching – and reflected on their time away from Saint Vincent.

McDaniel, who teaches Rock ‘n’ Roll Criticism, worked on several projects related to the course.

“An editor of a forthcoming scholarly anthology on Popular Music and Comedy asked me to expand a conference presentation into a full-length paper to include in the anthology,” McDaniel said. “I completed that paper—on the gallows humor of hardcore punk rock— and submitted it for review and possible revision.”

McDaniel also presented a paper on the liberation theme in women’s rock writing and then expanded that paper and submitted it to “Rock Music Studies” for publication consideration.

The professor of thirty-eight-years said that it took time to adjust to his new schedule outside of the classroom. However, McDaniel managed to find time for both work and leisure.

In addition to beginning to write a book-length readers’ guide to rock criticism, McDaniel said, “I also took a photography class, rode a lot of miles on my bike and read a lot of stuff that I haven’t had the time to get to.”

While McDaniel spent his time close to home, Snyder used his sabbatical to travel domestically and abroad.

Snyder took research trips to Washington DC and New Haven, Connecticut, where he was a guest scholar at the National Gallery of Art, the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.

In Oct. 2016, Snyder traveled to England to pursue research for a project. His trip included visits to museums, libraries and historical sites that contained artifacts related to his research on British writers and painters.

Snyder explained that after his travels and research, he used the information to write his article.

“When I returned, I worked on an interdisciplinary article that blended painting and poetry,” Snyder said.

Snyder submitted his article to “British Art Studies,” but was turned down.

“It's a top journal and very competitive. But I am currently reshaping for another publication. Whether that happens or not, the experience has made me a better teacher and scholar, and I am currently enjoying sharing the fruits of my sabbatical with my classes,” Snyder said.

Snyder mentioned that he had the opportunity to visit Rydal Mount, the adult home of the British poet, William Wordsworth.

“It was really uplifting to be engaged about my research, and I was thrilled and honored to be talking seriously about Wordsworth's ideas in the Wordsworth home,” Snyder said.

While both professors are glad to be back in the classroom, their sabbatical presented the opportunity for a much-needed break.

“The best part of a sabbatical is that it allows the scholar to pursue a lifelong passion,” Snyder said.

At Saint Vincent, any tenured professor who has taught for six consecutive years is eligible to go on sabbatical— a leave from teaching, often with pay, for rest, travel or research. He or she must submit an application which details the project they intend to pursue. With support of the department chair, the application is presented to the vice president of academic affairs who then makes the faculty member’s case to the board of directors who vote to approve or reject the faculty member’s proposal.


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