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Colin Robert Chase

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Colin Chase
Colin Robert Chase

Denver, Colorado
DiedOctober 13, 1984 (aged 48–49)
OccupationEnglish professor
Years active1971–1984
Notable work
The Dating of Beowulf (1981); Two Alcuin Letter-Books (1975)

Colin Robert Chase (1935 – October 13, 1984) was an American academic. He was an associate professor of English at the University of Toronto, and known for his contributions to the studies of Old English and Anglo-Saxon literature.[1] His most notable work, The Dating of Beowulf, was credited with upsetting the accepted orthodoxy of the dating of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, and leaving behind what was described in A Beowulf Handbook as "a cautious and necessary incertitude".[2][3] Chase died of cancer in 1984, shortly before his promotion to full professor.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Colin Robert Chase was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1935.[1] His father was Robert Lamont Chase, and his mother Mary Coyle Chase, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.[4] Colin Chase had two brothers, Michael Lamont Chase, and Barry Jerome Chase.[4]

Colin Chase obtained his B.A. from Harvard University in 1956, and studied classics and philosophy for five years at a Jesuit seminary.[1] In 1962 and 1964 he received M.A.s from Saint Louis University and Johns Hopkins University, and at the University of Toronto, where in 1967 he became a part-time instructor, he completed his Ph.D. in 1971.[1] His dissertation was entitled Panel Structure in Old English Poetry.[5]


Chase became an assistant professor at the University of Toronto in 1971, the same year he completed his Ph.D.[1] Four years later he was promoted to associate professor.[1] At the university he taught a wide variety of classes and had many doctoral students.[1] He was a faculty member of St. Michael's College and the Centre for Medieval Studies; from 1977 until 1984, he chaired the centre's Medieval Latin Committee.[1]

Much of Chase's work was on Old English and Anglo-Latin literature, and he focused his research on the pre-conquest literature of England.[1] He was particularly known for his 1981 edited collection The Dating of Beowulf, and from 1976 served as the chief reviewer of the Beowulf section of "The Year's Work in Old English Studies" in the Old English Newsletter.[1] The Dating of Beowulf was credited with challenging the accepted orthodoxy over the date that the epic poem was created;[6][7] in its wake came what was described in A Beowulf Handbook as "a cautious and necessary incertitude."[2][3] An anonymous reviewer of the book termed it "one of the most important inconclusions in the study of Old English", and declared that "henceforth every discussion of the poem and its period will begin with reference to this volume."[8][9]

Chase's other major publication was a scholarly edition of Two Alcuin Letter-Books.[1][10] He also wrote eight articles, and contributed to three videos made by the Toronto Media Centre, most popularly The Sutton Hoo ship-burial, about the Anglo-Saxon ship-burial unearthed at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.[1] He additionally participated in the revision of Jack Ogilvy's Books Known to the English.[1][11]

Chase died in 1984, while his promotion to full professor was underway.[1] At the time he was working on a study of the lives of the saints, and had started a new series of editions of the lives of the pre-conquest saints.[1] The Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, matched by the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund, awards the Colin Chase Memorial Bursary each year in Chase's memory.[1][12] The scholarship goes to "a graduate student in the Centre for Medieval Studies, on the basis of academic excellence and financial need."[12]

Personal life[edit]

Chase had a wife, Joyce, and five children: Deirdre, Robert, Tim, Mary, and Patrick. He was a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, and participated in its training program. He also performed in campus stage productions, a talent that had nearly led to a career in acting. He died of cancer in 1984.[1]


  • Chase, Colin (1971). Panel Structure in Old English Poetry (Ph.D.). University of Toronto.
  • Chase, Colin (December 1974). "God's Presence Through Grace as the Theme of Cynewulf's Christ II and the Relationship of this Theme to Christ I and Christ III". Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge University Press. 3: 87–101. doi:10.1017/S0263675100000600. closed access
  • Chase, Colin, ed. (1975). Two Alcuin Letter-Books. Toronto Medieval Latin Texts. 5. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 978-0-88844-454-7.
  • Chase, Colin (Spring 1981). "Background for Nostalgia in the Hagiography of Late Anglo-Saxon England" (PDF). Old English Newsletter. 14 (2): 30–31. ISSN 0030-1973. Free to read
  • Chase, Colin (1981). "Alcuin's Grammar Verse: Poetry and Truth in Carolingian Pedagogy". In Herren, Michael W. (ed.). Insular Latin Studies: Papers on Latin Texts and Manuscripts of the British Isles: 550–1066. Papers in Mediaeval Studies. 1. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. pp. 135–152. ISBN 0-88844-801-5.
  • Chase, Colin, ed. (1981). The Dating of Beowulf. Toronto Old English Series. 6. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-7879-6. JSTOR 10.3138/j.ctt1287v33.18. closed access
  • Includes chapters Chase, Colin (1981). "Opinions on the Date of Beowulf, 1815–1980". In Chase, Colin (ed.). The Dating of Beowulf. Toronto Old English Series. 6. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 3–8. ISBN 0-8020-7879-6. JSTOR 10.3138/j.ctt1287v33.18. closed access, and Chase, Colin (1981). "Saints' Lives, Royal Lives, and the Date of Beowulf". In Chase, Colin (ed.). The Dating of Beowulf. Toronto Old English Series. 6. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 161–172. ISBN 0-8020-7879-6. JSTOR 10.3138/j.ctt1287v33.18. closed access
  • Republished as Chase, Colin (2000). "Beowulf, Bede, and St. Oswine: The Hero's Pride in Old English Hagiography". In Baker, Peter S. (ed.). The Beowulf Reader. Basic Readings in Anglo-Saxon England. 1. New York: Routledge. pp. 181–194. ISBN 0-8153-3666-7.