York scholar honoured by international colleagues

In ceremonies held at York University on Aug. 2, Michael Herren, distinguished research professor in the School of Arts & Letters, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was presented with a Festschrift written by 14 authors from universities around the world. The publication, a hard-cover edition titled Insignis Sophiae Arcator, offers a tribute to Herren’s lifetime of work as a scholar in medieval Latin.

Right: Gernot Wieland (left), Chair of the Department of English, University of British Columbia, presents Professor Michael Herren with a Festschrift honouring his scholarly work

The Festschrift was presented to Herren in both “official” languages, Latin and English, during ceremonies which took place as part of the Fifth Congress of Medieval Latin Studies at York University. The congress, which was jointly hosted by York University and the University of Toronto, took place Aug. 1 to 6. (See the July 10 issue of YFile.)

A Festschrift is a special edition book created to honour a respected academic. The term, borrowed from German, means celebrated publication. The Festschrift created for Herren contains original contributions authored by Herren’s colleagues and former doctoral students. Published to celebrate Herren’s 65th birthday and his retirement from York University, the Latin title Insignis Sophiae Arcator means “outstanding teacher of wisdom”.

Left: Two hundred delegates met at York University during the Fifth Congress of Medieval Latin Studies

A well-respected academic might expect to receive such a tribute at the time of his retirement; however, Herren said he was both surprised and deeply touched by the gesture. Published by the Belgium-based publisher Brepols, the 304-page volume features an introduction by its editors Carin Ruff, professor of English and medieval studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and a former graduate student of Herren’s; Ross Arthur, professor of humanities at York University; and Gernot Wieland, Chair of the Department of English at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“The Festschrift features papers that are largely related to my own scholarly interests,” said Herren. “They are written by my colleagues and students. I’m enjoying reading their work and I have learned a great deal. It is just marvelous and a very meaningful tribute.

“It has a lovely introduction and some of the papers contain personal comments that are wonderful. There is also a complete bibliography of my work which is more complete than the one I have,” chuckled Herren. “You always know that something is going to happen when you retire; however, this was such a surprise and so very gratifying.”

In presenting the Festschrift to Herren, colleagues delivered tributes in Latin, French, Spanish, German and English. All spoke to Herren’s pivotal role in the international academic community and to his position as founding editor of the Journal of Medieval Latin which is housed at York University.

Speaking in Latin and English, UBC’s Wieland presented the Festschrift to Herren. “Michael founded the Medieval Latin Association and the Journal of Medieval Latin some 16 years ago. Michael has passed an important milestone. Today we celebrate Michael Herren with a Festschrift.

“The only area where we had some slight pause was the title for the Festschrift. We decided on Insignis Sophiae Arcator, which means ‘outstanding teacher of wisdom’ and that is Michael Herren,” said Wieland.

This was the first time the Congress of Medieval Latin Studies was held outside of a European venue. Approximately 200 scholars from 55 universities around the world travelled to York to present their research on a broad range of themes connected to the topic “Interpreting Latin Texts in the Middle Ages”. Herren was a key force in bringing the congress to York University.

More about Michael Herren

York Professor Michael Herren teaches humanities and classical studies and is a specialist in the medieval Latin literature of the British Isles. He has written nine books, among them a two-volume critical edition of the Hisperica Famina and a translation of Aldhelm’s prose writings. He has recently published Christ in Celtic Christianity: Britain and Ireland from the Fifth to the Tenth Century (co-authored with Shirley Ann Brown). Since 1990 he has served as the editor of The Journal of Medieval Latin.

In the last several years he has been working in the field of ancient and medieval myth criticism, for which he received a Killam Fellowship in 1995 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. In that year, he was also named Distinguished Research Professor and in the following year named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Herren has received numerous other distinctions including: Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, University of Munich, 1981-1982 and 1988-1989; Senior Research Fellow (Classics), King’s College London, 1987-1988; and Atkinson College Research Fellow, York University, 1985-1986. In 2002, Herren was made an honorary member (corresponding fellow) of the Royal Irish Academy. In 2003, he received the Konrad Adenuaer Research Prize (Royal Society of Canada and Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung) for outstanding research in the humanities over a lifetime. Herren also teaches in the graduate program in medieval studies at the University of Toronto.

In January 2007, Herren will travel to the University of California Berkley to assume a position as a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Medieval Studies program.