Medieval Literature: Not Dead Yet (Feeling Much Better... thinks it might go for a walk...)
This year, because I am department Chair, I only officially teach three classes (because I am a doofus, I'm actually teaching four, one as an unpaid overload, and I'm directing an honors thesis, but I digress). And because I'm going to be on research leave all of next year, I had to get in some key classes in now, so I'm teaching Chaucer (in ME), Medieval Literature (in translation), and J.R.R. Tolkien all in one year. Normally I'd be teaching a First Year Seminar or a Senior Seminar or an English 101.
You'd think, with only three classes, I would not have that many students, especially since medievalists are so superfluous and medieval literature isn't popular.
So here are the enrollment totals for my official classes:
Fall 2008: J.R.R. Tolkien: 62
Spring 2009: Medieval Literature: 37.
Keep in mind:
The average course at Wheaton enrolls 19 students. We are, after all, a small, liberal arts college. (Though that number is skewed due to small courses being mandated for first-year and senior seminars and English 101).
But also, because I knew how swamped I was going to be this year,
I deliberately scheduled these courses MWF to keep down enrollments (as you can imagine, T Th courses are more popular. Students don't like classes on Fridays).
I deliberately schedules these courses at the 10:30 and 11:30 time slots so that they would come up against a lot of other courses.
Yet the enrollments are the highest they've ever been. Even setting aside the Tolkien course, the pure medieval courses are averaging nearly twice the college average. And it's not due to my sparkling personality: there are a ton of students in these classes whom I've never taught before and wasn't able to recruit out of English 101 or First Year Seminar.
So whoever says that medieval studies isn't popular has no idea what he or she is talking about.
(I could be a real jerk and point out which other courses in which specific time periods medieval is out-drawing, but I don't need to, because it is out-drawing all of them.)