- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - When Damian Fleming studied Beowulf and Chaucer at Chaminade High School on Long Island, he was hooked.

“I thought it was amazing. I wanted to read this sort of thing forever,” said Fleming, associate professor for the Department of English and Linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne who characterizes himself as an Anglo-Saxonist steeped in the lore of A.D. 700 to 1100.

Fleming enrolled at Fordham University in the Bronx with the intention of majoring in medieval studies. His passion then took him to the University of Toronto for a masters and Ph.D. and then, in 2008, to finding a job in his field.

He landed at IPFW and hasn’t looked back. The fact that he can teach what he loves, Fort Wayne is affordable and his bike ride commute to campus is enjoyable have made the Fleming family perfectly happy.

Oh, and he gets to teach Latin, too.

This summer he found himself at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in Oxford, England, where, on a hunch, he asked to see a rare medieval manuscript. The librarian doubted he’d find anything, but Fleming discovered what is the oldest example of pseudo-Hebrew alphabets in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript.

The Anglo-Saxons, it seems, fancied themselves Hebrew scholars, only they didn’t know any Hebrews.

Christian monks were “living in an intellectual world where there was no one to correct them,” Fleming said. Sometimes, the medieval Hebrew looks entirely made up. Sometimes, monks would copy what they thought was the alphabet. The Anglo-Saxons may have been interested in ancient Jews, but the result and the evidence “tends to be mangled and confused, which isn’t terribly surprising,” Fleming said.

He has discovered examples of real Hebrew, poorly misunderstood Hebrew, and even “fake” Hebrew that had never been discussed by modern scholars before. The discovery has set him on a quest to uncover and understand this medieval phenomenon, he said.

“My research findings will contribute to a growing body of evidence showing that Christians of Western Europe were interested in the study of biblical Hebrew long before the Renaissance,” Fleming said.

While he studied Latin, Middle English and Old English in Toronto, his first serious Hebrew study was at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, he said.

Fleming will present his curious discovery at noon Oct. 28 in Kettler Hall. The presentation “Lurking in the Archives: Unexpected Hebrew in the Bodleian Library, Oxford” is part of the Anthropology Club’s Luncheon Lecture series.

Fleming was at the Bodleian on a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also received a three-year Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography where he will receive advanced, intensive training in the analysis of textual artifacts.

His awards have come as a result of his scholarly project “Hebrew Alphabets in Early Medieval Latin Manuscripts.” This past summer he presented academic papers at two international conferences - the Early Book Society in Oxford and Books at Newcastle University in Newcastle, England.


Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, https://bit.ly/1KkApFp


Information from: The Journal Gazette, https://www.journalgazette.net

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