-A +A

English tutor Dr Jenni Nuttall wins Teaching Excellence Award

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Jenni Nuttall receiving award.jpg

Dr Jenni Nuttall receiving her award
Jenni receiving her award (image © iwphotographic.com)

Dr Jenni Nuttall, Fellow and Lecturer in English at St Edmund Hall, received an Oxford Teaching Excellence Award earlier this week in a ceremony at Rhodes House.

The award primarily recognised her outstanding teaching of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, currently the set text for commentary in Oxford’s English Finals. Troilus and Criseyde is a long (over 8,000 lines), complex and sophisticated work of poetic fiction and storytelling. Students have to read and study the poem in the original fourteenth-century Middle English, and be able to analyse significant points of content and style from the entirety of the poem.

Jenni has been a tutor in Oxford since 2001, and during that time has developed many innovative teaching methods in relation to this key text. One example is a seminar in which she will ask students to prepare notes and then take on the role of a character each, from Chaucer’s poem and also their Italian equivalents from his source text, and then answer questions in the persona of their character. As well as being enjoyable, it is memorable and draws out the differences Chaucer introduced when adapting his source. Jenni is also the author of a reader’s guide to Troilus and Criseyde which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 and is widely used both at Oxford and many other universities.

In addition, Jenni started a blog stylisticienne.com in January 2014 which has had over 29,000 views of its various posts and pages by over 12,500 different users. This summer, she received a ‘special mention’ for it in the Open Practices category of the OxTALENT Awards. In the blog, Jenni covers various topics, ranging from analysis of medieval poetry to practical advice for Oxford applicants.

The awards ceremony in Rhodes House
The awards ceremony in Rhodes House (image © iwphotographic.com)

She has also published a series of seven ‘Poetics Primer’ blog posts, each dealing with a different skill necessary for analysing form in a literary commentary. These are written in an engaging way that has resonated with students, and they have been used extensively by Oxford Finalists as well as being recommended to their students by lecturers at other universities. Professor Seamus Perry, Chair of the English Faculty Board, asserted that, “It is not too much to say that Dr Nuttall has single-handedly, and most effectively, addressed one of the key teaching needs in our undergraduate curriculum, deploying technology with imagination and remarkable pedagogic insight.”

Students at St Edmund Hall are equally complimentary. “Jenni’s teaching style has just the right tension between tough and gentle,” said one recent English graduate. “She makes you want to put the effort in to please her while also rooting for you to put the effort in to please yourself. Meanwhile, the effort she puts into making classes and tutorials engaging is unrivalled. Whether drawing out the key points of Beowulf, orchestrating debates between Pandaro and Pandarus or staging medieval morality plays in the Emden Rooms, she approaches every topic with different angles to capitalise on the range of personalities in a year group.”