Three scholars with ties to York sweep the Medieval Academy of America awards

Three scholars with close ties to York won the top prizes at the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America held at Yale University, March 18 to 20.

Dyan Elliott (BA ’77, MA ’81) and Michael Herren, York University Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of classics and history, were elected as Fellows of the academy and inducted during a special ceremony that took place during the Fellows Session on March 20. The Medieval Academy of America, with a membership of 4,000 scholars, confers only five regular fellowships and three corresponding fellowships in any given year.

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (BA & BEd ’77) received the coveted 2010 Haskins Medal for Books Under Suspicion: Censorship and Tolerance of Revelatory Writing in Late Medieval England. This award is given annually to a book published in the previous six years that is judged to be distinguished in the field of medieval studies.

For Elliott, who is currently the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Humanities at Northwestern University in Chicago, the academy fellowship is the latest of many prizes she has received, which include Western Michigan University’s Otto Grûndler Book Prize in 2006 for her outstanding contribution to medieval studies, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship at the Bellaggio Center in 2002, and in the same year the Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship of Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol.

Right: Dyan Elliot

Referring to Elliott as an “alumna of two distinguished hyperborean institutions,” John Fleming, the academy orator, said in his laudation: “The honour calling you here today is but the latest in a career that has moved so quickly from brilliant promise to dazzling fulfilment as to leave your admirers as breathless in anticipation as in admiration.” Her three books, which explore the nexus of sexuality and spirituality, span a thousand years of women’s history from the late antique period to the late Middle Ages.

In his citation of Herren, Fleming remarked: “The recovery of [Christian Latin writings from the early Middle Ages] was one of the great scholarly achievements of the last two generations of medievalists of the century recently ended; and in that enterprise no single scholar has played a more conspicuous role than Michael Herren. His name is indeed nearly synonymous with the efflorescence of medieval Latinity that has brought such just fame to the Centre for Medieval Studies in Toronto.”

Left: Michael Herren

Herren’s other honours include Killam and Guggenheim Fellowships, the Konrad Adenauer Research Award, and fellowships in the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Irish Academy. Appointed to York in 1967, Herren taught Latin, Greek and humanities first at Glendon and then at Atkinson. From 1991, he was an active member of the graduate program at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies and founded The Journal of Medieval Latin in the same year. He was named Distinguished Research Professor at York in 1998.

Kerby-Fulton is the Notre Dame Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. In the citation read at the academy meeting, her book was described as “a fresh panorama of theology, literature and history in the age of Chaucer with an originality that promises to have an impact across numerous disciplines heralded as a spectacular achievement, a significant alternative intellectual history, enormously learned, a new narrative, remarkable, groundbreaking, and a turning point.”

Right: Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

Prior to Notre Dame, Kerby-Fulton taught for many years at the University of Victoria. A specialist in Middle English literature, she received a doctor of philosophy from the University of York in the United Kingdom. Her many awards include an earlier Medieval Academy book award, the John Nicholas Brown Prize, for her first book, Reformist Apocalypticism and Piers Plowman, a Guggenhein Fellowship, and two fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

The three York scholars first met during a Latin course taught by Herren in the late 1970s. Elliott and Kerby-Fulton were both preparing for doctoral studies looking to a career in the medieval field. They audited Herren’s Intermediate Latin course. 

The Medieval Academy of America, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, was founded in 1925. It is the largest organization of its kind in the world and is renowned for its flagship journal Speculum and its series of monographs.