Kemp Malone

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Kemp Malone (Minter City, Mississippi, March 14, 1889—October 13, 1971) was a prolific medievalist, etymologist, philologist, and specialist in Chaucer who was lecturer and then professor of English Literature at Johns Hopkins University from 1924 to 1956.

Born in an academic family, Kemp Malone graduated from Emory College as it then was in 1907, with the ambition of mastering all the languages that impinged upon the development of Middle English. He spent several years in Germany, Denmark and Iceland. When World War I broke out he served two years in the United States Army and was discharged with the rank of Captain.

Malone served as President of the Modern Language Association, and other philological associations (see link) and was etymology editor of the American College Dictionary, 1947. With Louise Pound and Arthur G. Kennedy, he founded the journal American Speech, "to present information about English in America in a form appealing to general readers".[1] He resisted the views of Old English poetry as products of a purely oral tradition. He contended that we must look to poets' individual elaboration of traditional structures: "A given poet was reckoned worthy if he handled with skill the stuff of which, by convention, poems must be made" (Malone, "The old tradition: poetic form" in A Literary History of England, Albert C. Baugh, editor, p. 31)

His interests ranged from 10th-century manuscripts to the etymology of contemporary comic strip names. American speech, the English language, the historical Arthur (his suggestion was the Roman dux Lucius Artorius Castus), Caedmon and Beowulf (he edited a facsimile of the Thorkelin transcripts, 1951), Deor - all were subjects among his hundreds of publications. He edited and translated a large corpus of medieval poetry: Widsith from the Exeter Book (1936). A sample of his production is Ten Old English Poems put into Modern English alliterative verse, The Johns Hopkins Press; Baltimore 1941 (sample at link)

His library, given to Emory University carries his name as a memorial. His papers (30 document boxes) were deposited in 1983 at Johns Hopkins University (Ms 129).

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