Fred C. Robinson
Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English Literature
Fred Robinson, A.B. Birmingham-Southern College, M.A., Ph.D. the University of North Carolina, faculty member at Yale since 1972: simply put, you are the ranking Old English scholar in the English-speaking world. Your books, bibliographies, textual editions, guides, articles, essays, and prefaces over nearly forty years give testimony to that distinction. Your contributions began early and have never stopped. Only two years ago you published, along with Bruce Mitchell, the superb new edition of Beowulf that will become the standard edition for teachers and students of that poem. Among the qualities for which you are especially noted is your wide-ranging learning. Expressed delicately, it is not every philologist who has a deep understanding of English poetry across the centuries. It is not every textual editor who has literary sensibility. It is not every bibliographer who has literary judgment and tact. But there is general accord that you are among those special scholars who do.
Beyond Yale, your distinction and fame, and your organizational abilities have made you a sought-after candidate for every organization in your field. President of the Medieval Academy of America, President of the New England Medieval Conference, Founding member of the Advisory Board of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, Chairman of the Research and Bibliography Committee of the MLA—you have been all of these, and more. It should be especially noted that you were recently asked to address the British Academy, one of the only Americans ever to be asked to do so, and your lecture on that occasion—a history of the publication of the text of Beowulf–was acclaimed as a model of its kind. A member of this faculty since 1972, you won the William Clyde DeVane medal for undergraduate teaching in 1999—no small feat for someone who teaches subject matters as recondite as you. Loyal member and frequenter of the Elizabethan Club; devoted fellow of Berkeley; faithful member of “The Boys’ Friendly,” as the Germanic bards praised the deeds of their heroes in public recitation, so today we of the Yale faculty praise your deeds and wish you well.
Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans