Color photograph of a light skinned man with brown hair smiling at the camera; he wears a dark blazer and is positioned in front of a large world map that spans from Egypt on the left to India on the right

Kenneth Baxter Wolf

Lester K. Little Resident in Medieval Studies
January 2–February 24, 2023
John Sutton Miner Professor of History and Professor of Classics, Pomona College

A historian of medieval Europe, Kenneth Baxter Wolf is the John Sutton Miner Professor of History and Professor of Classics at Pomona College. His early career focused on early medieval Spain, looking at the cultural construction of sanctity and early Christian views of Islam. Over time the geographical scope of his research expanded, encompassing the entire Mediterranean basin.

Among Wolf’s books are The Poverty of Riches: St. Francis of Assisi Reconsidered (2003), The Normans and Their Historians in Eleventh-Century Italy (1995), Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain (1990), and Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain (1988). His translations with essays and commentary include The Eulogius Corpus (2019), a study of Latin texts pertaining to the ninth-century Martyrs of Córdoba; The Life and Afterlife of St. Elizabeth of Hungary: Testimony from Her Canonization Hearings (2011); and The Deeds of Count Roger and of His Brother Duke Robert Guiscard (2005) by Geoffrey Malaterra.

Forthcoming in 2023 is The “Indiculus Luminosus” of Paul Alvarus, a second book on the Córdoban Martyrs that, like The Eulogius Corpus, contains texts written in defense of Christians executed for unprovoked public denunciations of Muhammad. Wolf will use his Residency to gather the “final fruits” of this long-term project, which offers us “a unique window onto the complexities of a Christian life lived under the jurisdiction of Islam.” The final product will be an article for the journal Speculum. “To this end, I imagine becoming a regular at the Vatican Library, which owns the latest edition containing the writings of Eulogius and Alvarus, and which promises access to much more in the way of relevant secondary scholarship.”

Wolf is also starting a monograph inspired by his longtime course on late antique and medieval Christian sanctity. “One of the very first chapters of Sanctity and Irony will be on martyrdom, with a focus on some of the unexpected and impactful implications of the church’s early focus on death as the quintessential form of sanctity. As a scholar of martyrdom, every church in Rome will a potential source of inspiration.”

Wolf earned his BA, MA, and PhD from Stanford University. He arrived at Pomona College in 1985 and became a five-time winner of the school’s Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching (1988, 1993, 1998, 2004, and 2013). He originated the Late Antique–Medieval Studies Program at Pomona in 2012, which he continues to coordinate. Wolf was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study from 1989 to 1991. The National Endowment for the Humanities supported his scholarship with a fellowship in 2004–5.