The powerful energy of the late Dr. Margaret Jennings continues to live through the English department at St. Joseph’s College.
Susan Nakley, Ph.D., associate chairperson of the English department, said Dr. Jennings’ influence could be seen throughout the curriculum – especially in the medieval literature course.
“She was really a powerhouse in every way,” Dr. Nakley said.
Dr. Nakley could spend an entire afternoon explaining the many ways Dr. Jennings – who hired Dr. Nakley in 2008 – continues to impact her. Dr. Nakley recalled how Dr. Jennings, who died in 2016 at 74, would be her toughest critic and held the department to an impressively high standard.
Dr. Jennings, who led the English department for decades, also had an astounding way of paying attention to detail from her academic research in medieval studies.
Medieval literature requires so much discipline in students, dissecting such small details, that Dr. Nakley decided to make it a core requirement for all students in the English department at St. Joe’s.
“She gave me so much advice in that first year that I still think about everyday,” she said.
Story Comes Full Circle
While most of the advice Dr. Nakely received from Dr. Jennings was related to the English department, she also received personal advice from the late scholar – mainly to always make your research a priority.
Dr. Nakley took that advice and continued to focus on her research – which centers around late medieval literature, drama, and political culture, with special emphasis on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and nationhood – while heading up the English department across the College’s two campuses.
Dr. Nakley’s research ultimately led to her penning her first book in the field of medieval literature, “Living in the Future: Sovereignty and Internationalism in the Canterbury Tales.”
While Dr. Nakley never had the chance to ask Dr. Jennings to critique the book, she did have a happy surprise. Shortly after Dr. Nakley’s book was published, St. Joseph’s Dean Michael Hanophy, Ph.D., informed her that just a few months earlier, Dr. Jennings herself published a book, “I Am Myn Owene Woman, Wel At Ese” – posthumously.