John V. Fleming

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For other people named John Fleming, see John Fleming (disambiguation).

John V. Fleming is an American literary critic and the Louis W. Fairchild, '24 Professor of Literature and Comparative Literature, emeritus, at Princeton University.


Fleming graduated from The University of the South in 1958. After studying at Jesus College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Fleming earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1963, where his dissertation director was D. W. Robertson, Jr. He spent two years as an Instructor in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before returning to Princeton as an assistant professor of English in 1965. Beginning in 1978 he took up a joint appointment in the Department of Comparative Literature. His fields of expertise included medieval English, French, and Latin literatures, and the history and culture of the Franciscan Order in the Middle Ages. He is perhaps best known in Princeton for his popular and erudite lecture course on Geoffrey Chaucer.

From 1995 to 2006, he authored a weekly column in The Daily Princetonian, titled "Gladly Lerne, Gladly Teche" (a reference to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). He has revived his column under its same name as a blog attached to his website, He served for several years as a Commissioner of Higher Education of Middle States. He was active in numerous learned societies, including the Medieval Academy of America, which he served as its President.

He is the father of Richard Arthur Fleming (b. 1964), a travel writer, Katherine Elizabeth Fleming (b. 1966), a prize-winning historian and university administrator, and Luke Owles Fleming (b. 1978), a linguistic anthropologist.

While at Princeton, his wit was widely appreciated and often recorded in a sporadic column titled "Professorial Chrestomathy," including such remarks from his lectures as "As of this morning, you have heard all my jokes and seen all my shirts."

In 2006, after 40 years at Princeton, he moved to emeritus status. Following his retirement, he was honored with two festschrift volumes prepared by former students and other colleagues. The first, Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming, ed. Michael F. Cusato and Guy Geltner (Brill: 2009), reflects his work in Franciscan Studies. The second, Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature: Essays in Honour of John V. Fleming, ed. Robert Epstein and William Robins (Toronto: 2010), reflects his contributions to the study of medieval English vernacular literature. He is an elected member of The Guild of Scholars of The Episcopal Church. In 2008 he was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In retirement Fleming has expanded his field of scholarly publication beyond medieval subjects. His first trade book, a study of classic anti-Communist literature entitled The Anti-Communist Manifestos was published in New York by W. W. Norton in August, 2009. In 2010 it was awarded the annual book prize of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.


  • 1492: An Ongoing Voyage (1992, with Ida Altman and John Hebert)
  • Classical Imitation and Interpretation in Chaucer's Troilus (1990)
  • Reason and the Lover (1984)
  • From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis (1982)
  • An Introduction to the Franciscan Literature of the Middle Ages (1977)
  • Two Poems Attributed to Joachim of Fiore. (With Marjorie Reeves). Princeton NJ: The Pilgrim Press, 1978.
  • The Roman de la Rose: A Study in Allegory and Iconography (1969)
  • The Anti-Communist Manifestos (2009)
  • The Dark Side of the Enlightenment (2013)


  • 1964. Browning's Yankee Medium. American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage, 39 (1): 26-32.
  • 1965. Collations of William de St. Amour Against St. Thomas. Recherches de théologie ancienne et medievale, 32: 132-139.
  • 1965. The Moral Reputation of the Roman de la Rose before 1400. Romance Philology, 18: 430-435
  • 1965. The Rustic Fete in Floridan et Elvide. Romance Notes, 7: 68-70.
  • 1966. The Dream of the Rood and Anglo-Saxon Monasticism, Traditio, 22: 43-72.
  • 1966. The Antifraternalism of the Summoner's Tale. Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 65: 688-700.
  • 1967. Chaucer's Squire, the Roman de la Rose, and the Romaunt. Notes and Queries, 14: 48-49.
  • 1967. A Middle English Treatise on the Nature of Man. Notes and Queries, 14: 243-244.
  • 1967. The Summoner's Prologue: An Iconographic Adjustment. Chaucer Review, 2: 95-107.
  • 1971. Hoccleve's 'Letter of Cupid' and the 'Quarrel' over the Roman de la Rose, Medium Aevum, 40: 21-40.
  • 1973. Historians and the Evidence of Literature. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 4 (1): 95-105.
  • 1976. The Old English Manuscripts in the Scheide Library. The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 37: 126-38.
  • 1976. Toward an Iconography of Medieval Poetic Forms. Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2: 3-10.
  • 1977. Medieval Manuscripts in the Taylor Library. The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 38 (2-3): 107-119.
  • 1979. Chaucer's Ascetical Images. Christianity and Literature, 28 (4): 19-26.
  • 1980. A Poetic Gambit in the Roman de la Rose. Romance Philology, 33 (4): 518-522.
  • 1981. Chaucer and the Visual Arts of His Time. New Perspectives in Chaucer Criticism, ed. Donald M. Rose. Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, Inc.: 121-136.
  • 1981. Daun Piers and Dom Pier: Waterless Fish and Unholy Hunters, Chaucer Review, 15: 287-294.
  • 1981. The Centuple Structure of the Pearl. Bernard S. Levy and Paul E. Szarmach eds., The Alliterative Tradition in the 14th Century. Kent OH: Kent State University Press: 81-98
  • 1981.Carthaginian Love. Assays Critical Approaches to Medieval and Renaissance Texts. Peggy A. Knapp and Michael A. Stugrin eds. Vol. 1: 51-72.
  • 1983. Anticlerical Satire as Theological Essay: Chaucer's Summoner's Tale. Thalia (Univ. Ottawa), 6 (1): 5-22
  • 1984. Gospel Asceticism - Some Chaucerian Images of Perfection. David Lyle Jeffrey ed., Chaucer and Scriptural Tradition. Ottawa: U. Ottawa Press: 183-195
  • 1985. Chaucer and Erasmus on the Pilgrimage to Canterbury. Heffernan, Thomas J., ed., The Popular Literature of Medieval England. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press: 148-166.
  • 1986. Deiphoebus Betrayed: Virgilian Decorum, Chaucerian Feminism. Chaucer Review, 21 (2): 182-199.
  • 1986. Obscure Images by Illustrious Hands. Text and Image, Acta ,Vol. X. Ed. David W. Burchmore. Binghamton NY: The Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance, State University of New York at Binghamton: 1-26.
  • 1986. Smoky Reyn: From Jean de Meun to Geoffrey Chaucer. Leigh A. Arrathoon Ed., Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction. Rochester MI: Solaris Press: 1-21
  • 1987. Response to Stephen G. Nichols. James A. W. Heffernan ed., Space, Time, Image, Sign: Essays on Literature and the Visual Arts. New York: Peter Lang: 37-40.
  • 1991. Chaucer on Language, Truth and Art. Essays in Honor of Edward B. King. Ed. Robert G. Benson & Eric W. Naylor. Sewanee TN: The University of the South: 73-85.
  • 1991. Christopher Columbus as a Scriptural Exegete. Lutheran Quarterly. 5(2): 187-198.
  • 1992. Jean de Meun and the Ancient Poets. Rethinking the Romance of the Rose. Text, Image, Reception. Ed. Kevin Brownlee and Sylvia Huot. Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press: 81-100.
  • 1993. The ‘Fidus Interpres’, or From Horace to Pandarus. Piero Boitani and Anna Torti, eds. Interpretation: Medieval and Modern. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer: 189-200.
  • 1993. The “Mystical Signature” of Christopher Columbus. Cassidy, Brendan., ed. Iconography at the Crossroads. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. Dept. of Art and Archaeology: 197-214.
  • 1997 . Sacred and Secular Exegesis in the Wyf (Wife) of Bath's Tale. Retelling Tales: Essays in Honor of Russell Peck, ed. Thomas Hahn and Alan Lupack. Cambridge UK, and Rochester NY: D.S. Brewer: 73-90
  • 1999. Bernard, Chaucer, and the Literary Critique of the Military Class. Ridyard, Susan J., ed. Chivalry, Knighthood, and War in the Middle Ages. University of the South Press: 137-150.
  • 1999. The Friars and Medieval English Literature. David Wallace ed. The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press: 349-375.
  • 2001. The Pentecosts of Four Poets. Speaking Images: Essays in Honor of V.A. Kolve. Ashville NC: Pegasus Press, 2001: 111-141.
  • 2003. Madame Eglentyne - The Telling of the Beads. Chaucer and the Challenges of Medievalism. Studies in Honor of H.A. Kelly. Ed. Donka Minkova and Theresa Tinkle. Peter Lang: 205-233.
  • 2003. Muses of the Monastery. Speculum 78: 1071-1106.
  • 2003. The Best Line in Ovid and the Worst. New Readings of Chaucer’s Poetry. Ed. Robert G. Benson and Susan J. Ridyard. Cambridge UK, and Rochester NY: D.S. Brewer: 51-74.
  • 2004. Criseyde's Poem: The Anxieties of the Classical Tradition. New Perspectives on Criseyde. Ed. Cindy L. Vitto and Marcia Smith Marzec. Ashville NC: Pegasus Press: 277-298.
  • 2005. The "Truth" about Jan Valtin. "Princeton University Library Chronicle" 67: 68-80.
  • 2006. Medieval English Religious Poetry. "Sewanee Theological Review," 49: 417-430.
  • 2006. The Flight of Geryon. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Studies in Christian Ecclesiality and Ecumenism in Honor of J. Robert Wright. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 68-98.
  • 2008. An Introduction to Bikeman. In Thomas F. Flynn, Bikeman, xi-xv.
  • 2009. The Travails of a Fellow-Traveler. "Princeton University Library Chronicle" 71: 187-210.
  • 2010. Never Brought to Mind. "City Journal" (Spring): 128.
Preceded by
position created
Fairchild Professor of English at Princeton University
Succeeded by
Diana Fuss

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