New Faculty Profile: Thomas Fulton

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Fall/ Winter 03


New Faculty Profile: Thomas Fulton, by John Koblin

After spending eight years at Yale and Wesleyan, Professor Thomas Fulton finds that elements of familiarity, even nonacademic ones, can help smooth the adjustment. "My wife loves women's basketball, and her enthusiasm made me a fan of the Huskies," says Fulton of the University of Connecticut's Big East team. "Now that I'm at Rutgers, I'm looking forward to seeing the two teams play."

Professor Fulton is settling into the Department, enjoying meeting his new colleagues and students. His office in the basement of Murray Hall, tucked away in one corner of the maze, already has a homey feel. Though some might see the size of the Rutgers English Department as a disadvantage, Professor Fulton sees it as an opportunity. "I'm very excited to be a part of such a wide-ranging department," he says. "The possibilities for collaborations with colleagues in different fields are rich and exciting." Having graduated as an English major from the University of Wisconsin, he knows what it's like studying English at a big public university. As a teacher, Professor Fulton tries to impart a strong sense of the rewards - and the challenges - of studying literature.

His primary interest lies with seventeenth-century literature. "The seventeenth century is fascinating," he says, "because literature, revolutionary ideology, philosophy, and the 'Scientific Revolution' all influence each other in complicated, interconnected ways. And, on top of the Scientific Revolution, a major political revolution in England substantially reshaped cultural discourse and inquiry." In his first semester at Rutgers, he taught the introduction to the English major and a course on Renaissance Literature and Culture, subtitled, "Vices, Machiavels, and Revengers." This survey looked at the ways Renaissance drama developed from classical and Medieval forms, including readings such as The Oresteia, Everyman, Measure for Measure, The Spanish Tragedy, The Jew of Malta, Richard III, and Hamlet. As the subtitle suggests, the course focused on the juicy political intrigues and moral dilemmas that fill these plays.

Professor Fulton comes to the English Department after teaching at Wesleyan last year. He received his Ph.D. from Yale in 2000, where he held an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship. Although his field is Renaissance Studies, a large part of his research focuses on how writers like Erasmus and More looked back to classical authors while becoming political advisors, and that work earned him the Goheen Classical Studies Prize in 2000, an award given to one young scholar a year. Professor Fulton is currently working on a book called Milton and the Philosophy of the English Revolution, and a separate article, "Milton's Areopagitica and the Roots of Liberal Epistemology," will soon be published in English Literary Renaissance. The article concentrates on the interplay between poetry and politics, a topic familiar to him: "My main scholarly interests all seem to be connected to the relationship literature has with the social and political realm."

A winner of the 1999 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Fellowship, Professor Fulton is now serving on the library committee at Rutgers. His own research has made him a great advocate of electronic databases, arguing that with access, "students can do ground-breaking projects on their own, accomplishing serious scholarly research from their dorm rooms that used to require years of work at special collections." Professor Fulton has made it a goal to integrate these new resources into his teaching, and to convince the library to acquire the best new tools for literary studies. "English departments do cutting-edge research in so many ways," he notes. "There's always something new to learn, even while working with authors from centuries ago."

click here to read Thomas Fulton's "Beyond the Stacks"

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