Richard Utz

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Richard Utz (born 1961) is a German-born medievalist who has spent much of his career in North America. He specializes in medieval studies, and is President of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism.


Richard Utz was born in Amberg, Germany in 1961. He was educated at the University of Regensburg, Germany, and Williams College, USA, where he studied English and German literature and linguistics with Karl Heinz Göller, Maureen Fries, Otto Hietsch, Gerhard Hahn, Sherron Knopp, Ernst von Reusner, and Hans Dieter Schäfer. He received his PhD at Regensburg in 1990 and then garnered a German Academic Exchange Service Teaching Grant to help reestablish English Studies in Dresden, East Germany, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He has worked as educator and administrator at the University of Northern Iowa (1991–1996; 1998–2007), the University of Tübingen (1996–1998), Western Michigan University (2007–2012), and the University of Bamberg (Johann von Spix International Professorship). Utz was also affiliated with the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University (2007–2012), and Centre for the Study of the Heritage of Medieval Rituals, an international research center located at the University of Copenhagen and funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (2002-2010), and he founded and co-edited the book series Disputatio (Northwestern UP; later Brepols) and the online journals Medievally Speaking, Prolepsis: The Heidelberg Review of English Studies, and UNIversitas. Utz has been honored with a number of awards for teaching and scholarship, among them the University of Northern Iowa "Distinguished Scholar Award"[1] and the Iowa Board or Regents award for faculty excellence."[2] Since 2012, he has served as Chair of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Scholarly work[edit]

Literary Nominalism[edit]

One of Utz's major contributions to scholarship is the introduction of the paradigm of Literary Nominalism to the study of medieval literature, specifically the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Grover Furr called Utz "perhaps the foremost exponent of the 'paradigm' of Nominalist influence upon late Medieval English literature. His own book and the collection of essays which he edited in 1995, are among the leading causes of the revival of interest by literary scholars in the influence of Nominalism."[3] Utz's posits the possibility of correspondences between late medieval philosophy/religion and literature. More specifically, he finds in certain features of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Canterbury Tales echoes of late medieval nominalist mentalities, a strand of thought cultural historians such as Rosario Assunto, Friedrich Heer, Erwin Panofsky, and Hans Blumenberg count among the decisive factors ushering in the formation of modern Europe. He claims that the author's literary nominalism led him to: construct narratives that center on the ontological status of universals and particulars (with a preference for the latter); focus on the radical contingency of language; challenge allegorical (hence: Neoplatonic ‘realist’) forms of narrative, character, and argument; experiment with non-conclusive, contingent, indeterminate, and fragmentary poetic structures; see a relationship between the God’s absolute and ordinate powers on the one hand, and God and humanity, rulers, subjects, and authors on the other. These late medieval nominalist features, Utz proposes, may well be responsible for modern readers' pronounced preference for Chaucer over other, more typically medieval writers. Scholars beholden to more traditional readings of late medieval poetry have been critical of Utz's perhaps too broad application of the paradigm.[4]

Medievalism studies[edit]

Utz’s second area of specialization is Medievalism Studies, the reception of medieval literature, language, and culture in postmedieval times. One of his additions to this research area is his 2002 study, Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology, which surveys the reception of Geoffrey Chaucer among German scholars and which the reviewer for Germany's daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung, called an "academic thriller."[5] "Simply for its overview of German scholarship on Chaucer," John M. Hill stated, "this book is invaluable, a mother-lode of information and a reminder to many of us that Old and Middle English scholarship as we learned it forty or more years ago is deeply indebted to nineteenth-century German academics and school teachers (even for the first categorizations of language history into old, middle, and modern)."[6] However, perhaps more important than the bio-bibliographic detail, the study demonstrates how (German) philology, rather than being sine ira et studio, was intimately involved with the goals of Germany as an increasingly aggressive nation state. In fact, Utz demonstrates how Germany's actual territorial incursions into Africa, China, and Alsace-Lorraine could be seen as quite similar to German philologists' colonization of academic space via rather bellicose research agendas and methodologies. Finally, Utz provides hitherto unknown information about the scholarship and relationships among some of the most productive medievalists in the German-speaking and Anglo-American world: A.C. Baugh, Henry Bradshaw, Alois Brandl, Ernst Robert Curtius, Ewald Flügel, Frederick James Furnivall, Eugen Kölbing, Wilhelm Hertzberg, Johann August Hermann (John) Koch, Hugo Lange, Victor Langhans, Arnold Schröer, Walter W. Skeat, Bernhard Ten Brink, and Julius Zupitza. More recently, Utz's work has focused on questions of the semantic history of "medievalism" as well as issues of temporality and technology.[7]

Collaborating first with Leslie J. Workman and Kathleen Verduin, later with Tom Shippey, Elizabeth Emery, Gwendolyn Morgan, Ed Risden, and Karl Fugelso, Utz shaped the work of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism, as whose President he has served since 2009.

The Manifesto[edit]

In 2017, Utz published Medievalism: A Manifesto as the inaugural volume in the ARC Humanities Press book series "Past Imperfect". Looking back at his career in medieval studies and medievalism, Utz set out to reform the way he and his colleagues think about and practice their academic engagement with medieval culture. His goal is to convince medievalists to abandon their academic habit of communicating exclusively with each other and rather to reconnect with the general public. Paul Sturtevant welcomed the volume as a "much-needed call-to-arms to those medievalists still on the fence about working for, among, and with the public" and recommends it become "required reading for every medieval studies Ph.D., and taped to the door of many a public history professor."[8] Jan Alexander von Nahl, similarly, finds value in Utz' "holding up a mirror to his own discipline" by harnessing the "productive uncertainty" of the field of medievalism studies.[9] Ryan Harper, in Medievally Speaking,[10] describes the value of the volume more critically, claiming that "some of the more pointed comments about the nature of the profession (particularly those about the “protection of tenure” and the “protective ivory tower walls”) seem to have been written by someone occupying a very comfortable chair" and that the arguments made suffer from too much "brevity and concision".

Bruce Chatwin[edit]

Utz is an expert on British essayist, journalist, art connoisseur, globetrotter, and novelist Bruce Chatwin (1940–1989), publishing entries in the Literary Encyclopedia[11] on all of Chatwin's books, including (in what Peter McLachlin called "a Borgesian coincidence"[12]) on Chatwin's 1989 novella, Utz, and reading On the Black Hill (1982) as an example of Utopian autobiografiction.[13]

Academic leadership[edit]

Utz has published articles on academic leadership issues, discussing nepotism during faculty hires, diversity and inclusion in administrative hires, traditional notions of English departments and the humanities, isolationist tendencies in the German academy, and open access to scholarship.[14] He is critical of disciplinary silos, finds synergies between the humanities and social sciences on the one hand, and engineering, computing, and the natural sciences on the other, and favors the public humanities.[15] He is a regular contributor to The Public Medievalist, a blog that focuses on lowering the drawbridge between the academic study of and the non-academic interest in medieval culture.


  • R. Utz, Medievalism: A Manifesto. Bradford, UK, 2017.
  • E.L. Risden, K. Fugelso, and R. Utz, eds., Medievalism NOW (special issue [28, 2013] of The Year's Work in Medievalism.
  • R. Utz, V.B. Johnson, and T. Denton, eds. Humanistic Perspectives in a Technological World. Atlanta, 2014.
  • E. Emery & R. Utz, eds., Medievalism: Key Critical Terms. Cambridge, 2014; paperback edn. 2017.
  • R. Utz, Literarischer Nominalismus im Spätmittelalter. Eine Untersuchung zu Sprache, Charakterzeichnung und Struktur in Geoffrey Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde. Frankfurt, 1990.
  • R. Utz, Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology: A History of Critical Reception and an Annotated Bibliography of Studies, 1793-1948. Turnhout, 2002.
  • Makers of the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor of William Calin. Ed. R. Utz and Elizabeth Emery. Kalamazoo, MI, 2011.
  • Medievalism: Key Critical Terms, ed. Elizabeth Emery and Richard Utz. Cambridge, 2014.
  • Eminent Chaucerians? Early Women Scholars and the History of Reading Chaucer. Ed. R. Utz and Peter Schneck. Philologie im Netz: Supplement 4/2009.
  • Postmodern Medievalism. Ed. R. Utz and Jesse Swan. Cambridge, UK, 2005.
  • Speculum Sermonis: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Medieval Sermon. Ed. Georgiana Donavin, Cary Nederman, and R. Utz. Turnhout, 2005.
  • Medievalism in the Modern World: Essays in Honour of Leslie Workman. Ed. R. Utz and Tom Shippey. Turnhout, 1998.
  • Constructions of Time in the Late Middle Ages. Ed. Carol Poster and R. Utz. Evanston, 1997.
  • Literary Nominalism and the Theory of Rereading Late Medieval Texts: A New Research Paradigm. Ed. R. Utz. Lewiston, 1995.


  1. ^ David Keiser, “Utz Named 2003 Scholar,” Northern Iowan (18 Feb., 2003), and Gwenne Culpepper, “A Man for the Middle Ages,” University of Northern Iowa Magazine 89.1 (Winter 2005), 14.
  2. ^ Katie Hammit, “UNI Professors Receive Regents’ Top Recognition,” Northern Iowan (23 Oct., 2001).
  3. ^ Grover Furr, "Review of H. Keiper, C. Bode, and R. Utz, eds., Nominalism and Literary Discourse," for The Medieval Review, 1999
  4. ^ See, for example, H. R. Andretta, Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: A Poet's Response to Ockhamism (1998).
  5. ^ Frank-Rutger Hausmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung (April 23, 2003).
  6. ^ "Review of Chaucer and the Discourse of German Philology," Medieval Forum (2003)
  7. ^ See, for example: "The Good Corporation? Google's Medievalism and Why It Matters," Studies in Medievalism 23 (2013): 21-28; "Coming to Terms with Medievalism: Toward a Conceptual History," European Journal of English Studies 15.2 (2011): 101-13, and "Negotiating Heritage: Observations on Semantic Concepts, Temporality, and the Centre of the Study of the Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals," Philologie im Netz 58 (2011): 70-87.
  8. ^ Paul Sturtevant, "A Public Medievalist’s Little Red Book." The Public Medievalist, 25 April, 2017.
  9. ^ Jan Alexander von Nahl, "Zur produktiven Unschärfe des Mediävalismus,", 22 June, 2017.
  10. ^ Review for Medievally Speaking, 12 October, 2017.; additional reviews and responses appeared in: Anon., The (Pop)Culture Medievalist, 11 February, 2018; Georg Festerling, Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, 254 (2017): 472; J.A. von Nahl, Lingua Americana, 21 (2017): 111-13; Danièle Cybulskie,, 7 November, 2017; Andrew B.R. Elliot, Arthuriana 27/3 (2017): 83-85; James T. Palmer, "On Utz' Medievalism Manifesto." merowingianworld, 4 May, 2017.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Psychopathology of Collecting: Bruce Chatwin's Utz
  13. ^ “Das Zwillingspaar aus Chatwinshire: Bruce Chatwins antibinäre Utopie.” In: Paare und Paarungen. Festschrift für Werner Wunderlich. Ed. Ulrich Müller (Stuttgart: Heinz, 2004), 343-53.
  14. ^ See his "Fit for Germany?," Inside Higher Ed, 16 September 2013; "The Diversity Question and the Administrative-Job Interview," Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 January 2017; "The English Prof as Entrepreneur," Inside Higher Ed, 4 March 2013; "The Trouble with English," The Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 January 2013; "Quo vadis, English Studies?" Philologie im Netz 69 (2014): 93-100; and "Beyond Consanguinity," Inside Higher Ed, 24 March 2010; "Open Access in the Academy" (accessed November 12, 2014); and "The Diversity Question and the Administrative-Job Interview," Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 January, 2017.
  15. ^ See Piotr Toczyski, "Co studiować, aby być mądrym i bogatym. Na Zachodzie znów chcą humanistów, a u nas? [“What to study to be wise and rich: The West wants the humanities again, so what about us?"], Gazeta Wyborcza, February 24, 2014, 9; "Don't Be Snobs, Medievalists," Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 August 2015; and "Game of Thrones among the Medievalists." Inside Higher Ed, 14 July, 2017.

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