Speaker honors former professor

by Eric Cherland

and Laura Kordiak
As part of the medieval theme for the 1998 Homecoming, more than 30 people heard Professor Helen Damico speak Thursday afternoon at Walter Library about former University English professor Frederick Klaeber’s edition of the old English text Beowulf.
Klaeber’s 1922 edition of Beowulf “supplanted all other editions and brought international renown to the University of Minnesota,” Damico said.
A professor of English at the University of New Mexico, Damico is a self-proclaimed “Anglo-Saxonist,” who teaches Beowulf and is a scholar of Klaeber.
Her interest in Klaeber was sparked while filling a temporary teaching position at the University. The University Archives provided Damico with letters and notes concerning Klaeber’s experiences in Minnesota.
Klaeber was a native of Germany and received his degree at the University of Berlin in 1893 before becoming a professor at the University. It was here that he began work on what Damico believes is “one of the most profound editions of Beowulf ever written.”
Beowulf is considered a “heroic epic,” said University professor Calvin Kendall. It “celebrates the warrior culture of Germanic tribes.”
The poem “is one of the longest and earliest epics in any of the Germanic languages,” Kendall said.
Klaeber retired from the University in 1931 and returned to Germany. He was forced to take German citizenship in 1941 and lived in poverty because he was not allowed to access his pension from his 38 years at the University.
Klaeber’s contributions helped to make the University a major center for Old English studies in the 1920s and ’30s, Damico said.
Klaeber Court, which houses the Minnesota English Center, was named in honor of his achievements.