John V. Fleming

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John V. Fleming

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. Fleming is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society.

He is married to the Rev. Joan E. Fleming, a retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey. They are the parents of Richard Arthur Fleming (b. 1964), a sound-recording engineer, artist, and 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' [with Ida Altman and John Hebert] (1992)
  • 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)
  • Luis de Camões: the Poet as Scriptural Exegete (2017)
Preceded by
position created
Fairchild Professor of English at Princeton University
Succeeded by
Diana Fuss

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