Zachary Hines: Using the study of books to inform the teaching of today
The newest visiting assistant professor in the department of English at The Ohio State University at Lima studies the relationship between medieval and early modern literary works and the material forms in which they survive.
In other words, Zachary Hines is a book historian.
“I am interested in how individual collectors and institutional libraries during the English Renaissance interacted with their medieval handwritten books: my archival research exposes how readers often endeavored to amplify the ‘medieval’ qualities of their ‘olde books,’” Hines said. “Ultimately, I argue, much of what we think of as authentically ‘medieval’ about manuscripts and the literary texts they preserve is actually a fantasy of origins, constructed through these material interventions.”
Hines is drawing on his experience as a book historian to inform how he teaches both literature and writing at Ohio State Lima.
“In much the same way I approach an old manuscript in a library, I challenge students in all of my classes to invest in ‘slow’ approaches to reading and thinking. By encouraging sustained and deliberate engagements with ‘texts’ in a variety of media, my classes emphasize close examination of primary works, careful attention to historical and material contexts, and cooperative approaches to research and writing.”
Students in his upper-level class autumn semester are digging into Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a famous Middle English poem that is preserved in a unique manuscript codex Hines has studied at the British Library. In a future issue of Huntington Library Quarterly, Hines examines the codex and the premodern practice of assembling seemingly unrelated manuscripts and the more modern practice of disassembling them.
While travel and other pandemic-induced restrictions have halted Hines’ plans for field work in libraries and archives in the United Kingdom for the moment, he is working on a variety of projects, including a translation of a 15th century Italian law student’s oration in neo-Latin with his sister, a Latin professor at the University of Cincinnati. Proximity to family isn’t the only thing that makes Ohio State Lima a great fit for Hines.
“As one of the major research universities in the US, Ohio State offers a perfect setting for me to pursue my commitments to both teaching and research. Ohio State students, staff, and faculty have ready access to every imaginable resource, including a rich collection of medieval and early modern materials and an enthusiastic library staff,” Hines said. “At Ohio State Lima, I have the unusual opportunity to teach motivated students in small classes on a small campus but remain an integral and valued part of a much, much larger institution.”
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Before joining Ohio State Lima’s English department as a visiting assistant professor, Hines was a postdoctoral lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. Hines earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Anthropological Archeology from Wake Forest University. During his undergraduate studies he was a visiting student at St. Peter’s College, University of Oxford and competed as a Division One Varsity athlete in cross country and track. He earned his graduate degree in Medieval English Literature from King’s College London and his PhD in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His interests include poetry, prose and drama from the early Middle Ages to Renaissance, especially the history of books and libraries.