James A. Schultz
I did not mean to be a Germanist. I meant to be an architect, an organ builder, or perhaps an organist. Once in college, however, I misplaced architecture and discovered that others had greater musical gifts than I. So I majored in German. After college I tried out both organ playing and organ building before realizing that I didn’t want to spend my life in church. I preferred universities. That’s when I applied to graduate school.
My commitment to the field really only began in graduate school at Princeton University, where I was drawn to the kind of rigorous, interdisciplinary, and imaginative medieval studies being pursued by Michael Curschmann. Easily distracted, I was also drawn to Russian formalism and French structuralism, which led to a dissertation in the high structuralist mode and a Ph.D. in 1977. Much revised, the dissertation appeared as a book, The Shape of the Round Table: Structures of Middle High German Arthurian Romance, in 1983. Around this time I published a number of essays on medieval poetics, rhetoric, and narrative theory, on the medieval prologue, on narrative causality and coherence. These are issues that continue to engage me.
I had graduated from Harvard College in 1969, at the height of the student and anti-war movements, and I began teaching at Columbia University in 1977, a time when the promise of gay liberation still inspired, at least among my friends in New York, an exhilarating activism. In such an environment, I, like many others, felt the need for a scholarship more seriously engaged with history than the structuralism that had seemed so captivating. For me the work of Foucault provided an energizing model. These new interests turned what I originally conceived as a brief essay on the structure of Middle High German childhood narratives into a book on the history of childhood, The Knowledge of Childhood in the German Middle Ages, 1100-1350, which finally appeared in 1995. While working on this project I published related essays on the medieval family, medieval childhood and adolescence.
Four years at Columbia were followed by six at Yale before I moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1987. At each station I counted among my close friends scholars of lesbian and gay history. Because I had discussed their work with them for so long, I rashly thought I too knew something about the field, and in 1993 I taught my first lesbian and gay studies course. Since coming to UCLA in 1995 I have devoted half my time to the Department of Germanic Languages and the other half to UCLA's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Program, of which I was the founding director. Recently my scholarly work has combined my medievalist interests with my interest in the study of sexuality. With two colleagues from Chicago I edited a collection of essays, Constructing Medieval Sexuality, which was published in 1997. My most recent book, Courtly Love, the Love of Courtliness, and the History of Sexuality (2006), brings the kinds questions that have been asked by historians of sexuality to bear on one of the most contentious topics in medieval studies.