Archive for November 19th, 2009

"Venerable Bede"…and the man who studies him

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
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I recognized Stanford English Prof. George Hardin Brown years before I knew who he was. I would run across the dapper, bearded scholar in the bowels of Stanford’s Green Library, while I was doing my own research.  I assumed he was someone on the library staff — until someone finally introduced him to me as one of the world’s preeminent scholars on the Anglo-Saxon monk-scholar, the Venerable Bede, “teacher of the whole Middle Ages.”

George Brown, perusing an antiquarian edition of Bede -- a gift from his wife, Prof. Phyllis Brown of Santa Clara University (and also a medievalist). Photo by L.A. Cicero

My story about Bede and George, author of the newly published Companion to Bede, on today’s Stanford News website is here. Like Bede himself, George is “a creature of the library.”

A creature of the library — and a gentleman. Take, for example, this temperate reaction in 1996, after John L’Heureux published his Handmaid of Desire, parodying his colleagues in the Stanford English Department:

STANFORD — So how are his faculty colleagues responding to John L’Heureux‘s fictional depiction of an unnamed university that is a $41.11 cab ride from SFO, set in lion-colored foothills and approached by a long avenue of palm trees?

“It’s a little curious,” George Brown, professor of English, said after L’Heureux read from his new novel, The Handmaid of Desire, at the Stanford Bookstore on Oct. 8.

“There are people in the department who read the book and say to me, ‘I’m glad I’m not in there.’

“And I say, ‘You’re not?’

“And I, of course, recognize myself among the ‘fools’ who teach literature.”

Brown has known L’Heureux since they were in graduate school together at Harvard University in the late 1960s.

“When he was a Jesuit, and when he was writing for the Atlantic, John always wrote with a satiric voice,” Brown said. “His view of life is a bit sharp.”