Obituary for A.G. Rigg

10 Jan 2019 9:42 AM | Marc Cels (Administrator)

Forwarded on behalf of Professor David Townsend, Chair, Medieval Latin Studies, Centre for Medieval Studies:

We acknowledge with deep sadness the death of Professor A.G. Rigg on Monday, 7 January 2019.  George, as he was known universally to friends, colleagues, and generations of admiring and grateful students, died peacefully at home, in the presence of his beloved wife Jennifer, after a period of declining health.

George was born on 17 February 1937 at Wigan, Lancashire, where he received his secondary education at Wigan Grammar School, which was known for its strong reputation in Classics. As an undergraduate he attended Pembroke College, Oxford from 1955 to 1959 leading to a B.A. in the English School.  He wrote his D. Phil thesis, “An edition of a fifteenth‑century commonplace book,” under the supervision of Norman Davis. That work was published in 1968 as A Glastonbury Miscellany of the Fifteenth Century: a descriptive Index of Trinity College, Cambridge, MS 0.9.38.  Concurrently with his doctoral work he taught at Merton College, Oxford, when he first met Jennifer, as well later at Balliol College. From 1966 to 1968 he held a Visiting Assistant Professorship in the Department of English at Stanford University. In 1968 he took the position of Assistant Professor in the newly formed Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of English at the University of Toronto, where he taught until his reluctant retirement (still mandated by law at 65) in 2002. As an emeritus, his generous and energetic mentorship of graduate students continued for many years thereafter.

His exacting philological standards secured his international reputation as a scholar of medieval Latin as well as of Middle English. His editions included the poems of Walter of Wimborne (1978), his controversial edition of the Z-Text of Piers Plowman (1983, with Charlotte Brewer) and a glossed epitome of Geoffrey of Monmouth, A Book of British Kings (2000). The latter was published as volume 30 of the Toronto Medieval Latin Texts, a series that George established and for which he served as general editor for its first thirty volumes. His many articles included a signal series of codicological studies of medieval Latin poetic anthologies which appeared in Mediaeval Studies. Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide, co-edited with Frank Mantello, remains an invaluable resource for students of the field, while his magisterial survey, Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066-1422, published in 1992, will remain the definitive reference work for decades to come.  He was elected Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 1997 and of the Royal Society of Canada in 1998.

His passionate advocacy for reading competence in medieval Latin as a central feature of serious advanced training in medieval studies led to the creation of the Committee for Medieval Latin Studies, which he chaired from its inception until his retirement, and to the system of examinations that remains a hallmark of a Toronto training in the field. It was his tireless and exacting but endlessly patient encouragement of students in their pursuit of a notoriously rigorous standard that exposed the greatest number of Toronto graduate students to his teaching over the years. Those who took his seminars, and above all those who benefitted from his kindness, enthusiasm, and bonhomie as their doctoral supervisor experienced even more abundantly his rare combination of extraordinary erudition, good humour, genuine humility, and quiet empathy.

We are all of us the poorer for the loss of this kind, good, and brilliant man. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Rigg, sisters-in-law Joanne Hope and Ann Nicholson, and by his nephew, Rupert Hope. Warmest thanks to the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care for their unfailing kindness and support.

There will be a small ceremony at 11:00 am on Saturday, 19 January 2019, Humphrey Funeral Home, 1403 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, ON.  Phone: 416-487-4523.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to an animal rescue shelter or a charity of your choice.

The Centre hopes to hold a memorial on the University of Toronto campus in the Spring, and an informal remembrance at the Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo prior to the annual CMS reception; details to follow.

David Townsend

Professor Emeritus of Medieval Studies and English

University of Toronto

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