The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:14 pm

IPFW teacher turns medieval spy

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

When Damian Fleming studied Beowulf and Chaucer at Chaminade High School on Long Island, he was hooked.

"I thought it was amazing. I wanted to read this sort of thing forever," said Fleming, associate professor for the Department of English and Linguistics at IPFW who characterizes himself as an Anglo-Saxonist steeped in the lore of A.D. 700 to 1100.

Fleming enrolled at Fordham University in the Bronx with the intention of majoring in medieval studies. His passion then took him to the University of Toronto for a masters and Ph.D. and then, in 2008, to finding a job in his field.

He landed at IPFW and hasn’t looked back. The fact that he can teach what he loves, Fort Wayne is affordable and his bike ride commute to campus is enjoyable have made the Fleming family perfectly happy.

Oh, and he gets to teach Latin, too.

This summer he found himself at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in Oxford, England, where, on a hunch, he asked to see a rare medieval manuscript. The librarian doubted he’d find anything, but Fleming discovered what is the oldest example of pseudo-Hebrew alphabets in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript.

The Anglo-Saxons, it seems, fancied themselves Hebrew scholars, only they didn’t know any Hebrews.

Christian monks were "living in an intellectual world where there was no one to correct them," Fleming said. Sometimes, the medieval Hebrew looks entirely made up. Sometimes, monks would copy what they thought was the alphabet. The Anglo-Saxons may have been interested in ancient Jews, but the result and the evidence "tends to be mangled and confused, which isn’t terribly surprising," Fleming said.

He has discovered examples of real Hebrew, poorly misunderstood Hebrew, and even "fake" Hebrew that had never been discussed by modern scholars before. The discovery has set him on a quest to uncover and understand this medieval phenomenon, he said.

"My research findings will contribute to a growing body of evidence showing that Christians of Western Europe were interested in the study of biblical Hebrew long before the Renaissance," Fleming said.

While he studied Latin, Middle English and Old English in Toronto, his first serious Hebrew study was at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, he said.

Fleming will present his curious discovery at noon Oct. 28 in Kettler Hall, Room G46. The presentation "Lurking in the Archives: Unexpected Hebrew in the Bodleian Library, Oxford" is part of the Anthropology Club’s Luncheon Lecture series.

Fleming was at the Bodleian on a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has also received a three-year Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography where he will receive advanced, intensive training in the analysis of textual artifacts.

His awards have come as a result of his scholarly project "Hebrew Alphabets in Early Medieval Latin Manuscripts." This past summer he presented academic papers at two international conferences – the Early Book Society in Oxford and Books at Newcastle University in Newcastle, England.

Manchester University

Groundbreaking researcher Frederick Balagaddé will bring his story to Manchester University on Tuesday. The free presentation will be in Cordier Auditorium and begins at 3:30 p.m. It is open to the public. The 2001 Manchester University graduate from Uganda will discuss HIV in Africa. 

Trine University

• Trine University recently received gifts and pledges that brought its Invest in Excellence campaign total to $60.1 million,  more than 80 percent of its $75 million campaign goal. The Invest in Excellence campaign is focused on the Trine Fund for scholarships and operations, endowment and capital projects. In the past two years, Trine University has invested more than $25 million in campus upgrades.

• Trine University’s free Fall Humanities Symposia continues on Tuesdays with a focus on "The Running Man" through Nov. 10. Each 30-minute presentation  starts at 3:30 p.m. in Wells Theater in Taylor Hall with a discussion following. On Oct. 20, "The Olympics in the Ancient World" will be presented by professor Michael Blaz, Ph.D. On Oct. 27, "Poe: The Man Behind the Mustache" will be presented by storyteller LouAnn Homan, adjunct instructor. On Nov. 3, "Liberal/Conservative Polarization: The Moral Dysfunction in America Today" will be presented by William Argus, M.D. On Nov. 10, "Queen Bess and the Bard: The Curious Relationship of Shakespeare and Elizabeth I" will be presented by Amy Nicholls, instructor and chair of the Department of Humanities and Communication. For more information, go to

Allen County Retired Teachers meeting

The Allen County Retired Teachers will meet 11 a.m. Oct. 29 at Biaggi’s Restaurant at Jefferson Pointe. For reservations, contact Mary Jo Purvis at 471-5952 or

Students and parents who have a favorite teacher can nominate the individual for Teacher Honor Roll. Send nominations to The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email

To submit an item, send a typed release from the school or organization to Education Notebook, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email at least two weeks before the desired publication date.


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