Interviewing Dr. Shannon Valenzuela

Enjoy this Q and A with Dr. Valenzuela who will be leading an AMI webinar next week on the tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of Chanticleer and the Fox.

Larissa: I understand you got your doctorate in Medieval Studies; Can you give us a little more insight into your studies?

Shannon: I decided that I wanted to explore theories of translation and rhetorical invention, so I spent a lot of time researching these topics. I also developed a keen interest in medieval theories of memory. In the medieval understanding, a well-organized memory was the source of imagination and invention – it essentially gave you the “stuff” to think with, much like a well-stocked pantry means that you can cook almost anything.

L: What brought you to the University of Dallas?

S: UD was my undergraduate alma mater, and when our family moved back to Dallas after graduate school, I asked about the possibility of teaching a course or two. I taught as an adjunct professor for many years while my kids were young, during which time I was also developing my skills as a screenwriter. When the opportunity arose to join UD full-time as a professor and a video course creator, I gladly accepted!

L: What was your inspiration for the Quest? How have viewers responded?

S: The Quest developed out of the video course series I was initially brought on to create and produce. There was a great desire to share the course content and the educational mission of the University with a much wider audience, and so I re-developed the content into a limited series and we pitched it to EWTN. They decided to distribute it, and that has been an incredible ongoing partnership for us. Viewers have responded in such an incredibly positive way – I get emails regularly from people thanking me for the encouragement it has given them. I am so grateful for and humbled by the response it has received.

L: Do you remember your first experience reading Chaucer? What was it like?

S: My first experience with Chaucer was as an undergraduate. We read a few of the tales during our Medieval Literature survey class, and I loved them. I appreciated Chaucer’s elevated imagination and his ability to portray his pilgrim characters as down-to-earth, regular people. He is able to consider some of the most weighty themes – like sin and salvation, love and friendship, and the search for meaning – with a lightness of touch that I found really refreshing.

L: Do you have a favorite of all the Canterbury tales?

S: I don’t know if I could pick a favorite! The beautiful thing about the Tales is that there is such dynamic range. I love the Miller’s Tale because I think Chaucer is wrapping a very serious debate about the wisdom of translating sacred texts into vernacular languages in a really raunchy and ribald story – in a way, proving his point by the very vehicle he has chosen! I also love the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale for her spunk, and for her similarly very serious questions about women, stories, and virtue.

L: Do you recommend webinar participants read the story “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale…” first, and if so, how can they find it easily? Is there a translation you recommend they have in front of them during the webinar?

S: Definitely! There are many translations of the Canterbury Tales available, and I think any of these will work well for our purposes. 

L: Describe your novels! When did you write them? What audience did you write them for? What was the inspiration? Where can we find them?

S: I’m a medievalist by day and a science fiction writer by night, under the pen name Shannon Blake. I wrote the first three books in The Silesia Chronicles almost ten years ago now, and in the years since then, I’ve been working on some other fiction projects and writing for film. I love these stories because I personally love a good science fiction adventure story with a dash of romance! If you like Star Wars, you’d probably enjoy the series, and I always say it’s rated PG-13. Since I have plans to expand the series now, I’ve updated them and given them a fresh new look, and they’re set to be released in June. You can find them up for preorder now on Amazon.

Webinar Details:

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale of Chanticleer and the Fox by Geoffrey Chaucer

Tuesday, May 9th @ 4:30 Pacific/7:30 Eastern

One of the most playful of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Nun’s Priest’s Tale of Chanticleer and the Fox is a delightful introduction to the poet’s quirky (and sometimes shocking) combination of the modes of “ernest and game.” Combining barnyard antics with a serious exploration of the purpose of storytelling and approaches to reading, this animal fable is a perfect springtime medley of high spirits and seriousness.

Email: to register!

 Shannon K. Valenzuela, Ph.D., is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Humanities and English at the University of Dallas. She received her B.A. in English and Classics from the University of Dallas, and her Ph.D. in literature from the University of Notre Dame, where she specialized in the medieval period. She is also an award-winning screenwriter and a novelist, and she is the writer, director, and narrator of the limited television series The Quest, which is produced by the University of Dallas and distributed by EWTN.

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  1. I wish I could have attended live, but I will say this reminds me how grateful we are that we got my younger child to go to the University of Dallas, hot summers and all. She says some students struggle with the core classes, but they have had a very positive impact on her (and probably most). Hope remains. May God bless Dr. Valenzuela and her colleagues.