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James Sargan

By Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson

Dr. SarganWhen I first met Dr. Sargan in his office at the end of the Fall 2023 semester, we found we had a connection to one another through an unlikely place, a small constituent college (technically a permanent private hall, but oh well) at a university across the pond. Though we’d been there at different times, we reminisced over the strange aspects the college had, like the basement-dwelling common room for graduate students and the free leftover wine from the Baptist services. I think we were both excited to meet another person who’d experienced the surreal nature of a place like this particular college--and who would’ve thought such another person would exist in a place like Athens, GA?

Dr. Sargan joined the UGA English Department last semester as one of the seemingly growing collection of medievalists we have. He specializes in medieval English Literature, paleography, codicology, and the history of the book. He co-edited The Routledge Handbook to the History of the Book in Medieval Western Europe, 650–1550 (forthcoming 2025) and of the medieval volume of A Cultural History of Trans Lives (forthcoming 2027).

At the start of his BA, Dr. Sargan was given the choice to study Shakespeare or medieval literature. Hailing from a small British village, he studied a lot of Shakespeare in high school, so he instead decided to go for something new (or as he pointed out, perhaps something very very old?!). While learning medieval literature from two excellent professors, he was also taking history courses on social minorities during the medieval period. When Dr. Sargan made it to graduate school at the University of Oxford, he finally had the opportunity to work closely with manuscripts and rare books.

“There was something about the tangible object that was both a magical sort of connection—holding something held by another person 700 or more years ago—and made concrete the social relations of literature that I was interested in. Really, all of my current research spins out from that realization.”

Here at UGA, Dr. Sargan is still able to interact with medieval manuscripts that he and students can research, contradicting the popular belief that medievalists are “a bunch of fusty academics going over and over the same well-trodden ground” (his words). Instead, Dr. Sargan firmly believes there are many new and exciting ideas to pursue within medieval studies. He noted, for example, the wide number of medievalists creating new readings that challenge what we think we know about constructs such as race, gender, and sexuality.

Throughout his life, Dr. Sargan has shifted between big cities and smaller towns and has lives in four countries in the past five years (lots of packing and unpacking!). But for him, Athens is the perfect size. Additionally, he appreciates the variety of majors in the classroom, which he feels allows for “cross-pollination” and intellectual diversity.

Outside of Park Hall, Dr. Sargan enjoys knitting, a hobby he took up during the pandemic. He enjoys making baby clothes the most, since he takes his time and they are faster projects. While he was in the UK in 2021, he “resurrected” his old sewing machine. Now that he has a house with a yard, Dr. Sargan is trying his best to “resurrect its very beleaguered garden.” This season, he is growing beans, tomatoes, lettuces, along with an array of flowers he’s thrown about the garden. 

Welcome Dr. Sargan to the English Department--and maybe ask how his garden is doing next time you see him!

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