About Us
Norm Klassen
Norm Klassen
Department of English

DPhil, University of Oxford

MA, University of Waterloo

BA Honours, University of Waterloo

BTh, Canadian Bible College




SH 2205
Associate Professor Klassen Norm

A prairie boy, I first completed a theology degree and then majored in English and History at the University of Waterloo before going on to doctoral work at the University of Oxford. After almost a decade at Trinity Western University, I am now in my second at St Jerome’s University, where I enjoy teaching undergraduate courses ranging from introductions to literature and literary theory and the survey of British literature to upper-level courses on pre-modern rhetoric, Chaucer, and medieval literature.


I work at the intersections of literature, art, and intellectual history. The title of my most recent book, Rationality Is … The Essence of Literary Theory (May 2022), invites two different interpretations. For many, the essence of literary theory is the unmasking and redescription of rationality in other terms. Put ironically, rationality is male; rationality is white; rationality is repression…. The book’s title can also be read in a second way. On this reading, rationality itself is the essence of literary theory and central to literature, art, and society. Certain conceptions of what it entails can be problematic – the critique in the first way of reading the title remains relevant. Yet one can affirm rationality as integral to human flourishing, including the processes of creating, analyzing, and enjoying literature, art, and culture.


My second book about Chaucer’s poetry, The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision (2016), concerns a basic human question, How do we overcome tyranny? The symbolic pilgrim fellowship in The Canterbury Tales embodies the answer. Chaucer aligns himself with that other great poet-theologian of the Middle Ages, Dante, as a Christian humanist. He recognizes in art a fragile opportunity: not to reduce reality to a set of dogmatic propositions, but instead to participate in an ever-deepening mystery. Chaucer celebrates the way in which all human activity, even the most fraught of human interactions, ultimately bears witness to a created reality that resonates with a Word from God. 


My early work, including Chaucer on Love, Knowledge, and Sight (1995) and articles on French and other medieval literature, explored relational aspects of knowing in terms of the motif of sight. I have been interested in the ways in which Chaucer in particular complicates our understanding of knowledge, love, and belief. This interest developed into an exploration of the situatedness and self-knowledge involved in all attempts to make sense of things, not least those flying under the banner of humanism. I articulated some of these ideas in an introductory way in a co-authored book, The Passionate Intellect (2006). I have also written on literature and poetry for the Zondervan Dictionary of Christian Spirituality and, more recently, for The Chaucer Encyclopedia.


I am currently working on three projects. For the Peter Martyr (English) Library project, published by Brill, I am translating Peter Martyr Vermigli’s sixteenth-century commentary on Romans. I am also drafting a second novel about the detective work of Francine Pettigrew, on leave from Paris’s Brigade criminelle and drawn into the emotional mystery of the discovery of the body of a young girl hidden between boats along Regent’s Canal in north London. My main project is a cultural history of love and reason and the tension between them. Literature, art, and philosophy wrestle with an ambivalent reception of Plato’s picture of reason as a charioteer controlling the horses of the passions and appetites, which are irrational, the Stoic conviction that the soul is entirely rational and all emotions derive from faulty judgements, and the Christian assimilation of reason to love.


I enjoy travel, creative writing, working around my house and garden, and keeping active. I live in Hamilton with my wife. We have three grown-up sons.


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.


Rationality Is ... The Essence of Literary Theory. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2022.


The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision: Chaucer on Overcoming Tyranny and Becoming Ourselves. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2016.


Norm Klassen and Jens Zimmermann, The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of  University Education, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.


Chaucer on Love, Knowledge, and Sight, Chaucer Studies 21, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1995.



"In the Vineyard: A Report for a Friend," in The Scholar-Gipsy: Thrownness, Memoricide and the Great Tradition, ed. Matthew Steem & Wayne Northey, Abbotsford: St Macrina Press, 2024.


"Beauty is the Church's Unity: Supernatural Finality, Aesthetics, and Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue," in Mapping the Una Sancta: Eastern and Western Ecclesiology in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Sotiris Metralexis and Andrew T.J. Kaethler, Winchester: Winchester UP, 2023, 437-55.


"Environments of Grace: Reflections on Sacramental Reality in the Work of Bruce Cockburn and David Adams Richards," in Christian Environmentalism and Human Responsibility in the 21st Century: Questions of Stewardship and Responsibility, ed. Katherine M. Quinsey, Abingdon: Routledge, 2023, 158-72.


“Surprised by Joy: Chaucer’s Tonal Achievement in Parliament of Fowls, 92-294,” Tradition and Formation: Claiming an Inheritance: Essays in Honour of Peter C. Erb, ed. Michel Desjardins and Harold Remus, Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2009, 213-28.


Jens Zimmermann and Norman Klassen, “Simon Critchley: The Ethics of Deconstruction or Metaphysics in the Dark,” in The Strategic Smorgasbord of Postmodernity: Literature and the Christian Critic, ed. Deborah Bowen, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, 122-34.


“Romance and Tragedy in Chaucer’s ‘litel bok’ of Troilus and Criseyde,” in A Concise Companion to Chaucer, ed. Corinne Saunders, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005, 157-77.


“Nature, Virtue, and Humanism: Cross-Disciplinary Reflections on Vermigli’s Romans Commentary (10-16),” Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformations, ed. Frank James in Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, Leiden: Brill, 2004, 197-211.


“Chaucerian Ethics: The Spaces of Dialogue,” Theology in Dialogue III:  English Literature and Theology, ed. Liam Gearon, London: Cassell, 1999, 85-103.



"Ambiguity (ambages)," The Chaucer Encyclopedia, Oxford: Wiley, 2023, 1.63-65


"Beauty is the Church's Unity: Supernatural Finality, Aesthetics, and Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue," Analogia: the Pemptousia Journal for Theological Studies 10 (2020): 63-76.


“Mary’s Swollen Womb: What It Looks Like to Overcome Tyranny in The Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale,”Renascence 68 (2016): 76-92.


“The Coherence of Creation in the Word: The Rhetoric of Lines 1-34 of Chaucer’s General Prologue,” Christianity and Literature 64 (2014): 3-20.


 “A Further Note on Editorial Punctuation of the General Prologue, ll. 12-16,” The New Chaucer Society Newsletter 36.1 (2014): np.


“To Seek To Distant Shrines: A Syntactical Problem in Chaucer’s General Prologue 12-16,” Modern Philology 111.3 (2014): 585-92.


“Two Possible Sources for Chaucer’s Description of the Pardoner,” Notes and Queries 252 (ns 54) (September 2007), 233-6.


“City of Lights: Natural and Transcendent Light Sources for Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s ‘Good City-Republic,’” Quaderni d’Italianistica 28 (2007), 31-44.


“A Note on ‘Hyre’ in Parliament of Fowls, 284,” Notes and Queries 251 (ns 53) (June 2006), 154-7.


“Two Chaucers,” Medium Aevum 68 (1999), 96-104.


“The Lover’s Largesce: Agency and Selfhood in Chrétien’s Le Chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot),” French Forum 24 (1999), 5-20.


“Self-reflexiveness and the Category of the Will in Early Troubadour Poetry of Fin’ Amors,” Forum for Modern Language Studies 34 (1998), 29-42.   



“Material Limits,” Times Higher Education, 16 January 2014: 33


Dictionary Entries
“Julian of Norwich,” Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Glen G. Scorgie, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011, 553-4.


“Literature and Christian Spirituality,” DCS, 579-81.


“Poetry and Poetics,” DCS, 678-80.


Mars Hill Audio Journal, vol. 136, 15 November 2017.


Mars Hill Audio Journal, Anthology 8: “The Vocation of Knowledge: Higher Education and the Difference Christ Makes,” 1 January 2010.


Mars Hill Audio Journal, vol. 86, 1 July 2007.


Unrefereed Articles
“Art by the Word,” Convivium 5 (2016), 26-28.


“A Pilgrimage of Conversation,” Convivium 4 (2015), 20-23.


“My Anglicanism,” The Anglican Catholic 15 (2003), 24-40.


Norm Klassen and Tony Cummins, “Human/ist Affirmations: An Interdisciplinary Conversation,” Canadian Evangelical Review 25 (2003), 5-17.


Book Reviews (Print)
Ryan McDermott, Tropologies: Ethics and Invention in England, c. 1350-1600, Christianity and Literature

Peter W. Travis, Rereading the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, Modern Philology 111.1 (2013): E19-22.


Online Postings
“George Grant as a Philosopher of Fittedness for the Contemporary Canadian Situation or Overcoming Our Self-Incurred Immaturity,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 8 June 2017.


Review of Aaron Riches, Ecce Homo: On the Divine Unity of Christ, Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 3 June 2017.


“A Reflection on the Canticle of Mary,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 1 June 2017.


“Harari on Big Data and the Gap Between Homo and Deus,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 5 December 2016.


“A Reflection on the Canticle of Zechariah,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 17 November 2016.


Review of Conor Cunningham, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong, Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 21 December 2012.


“The Thomistic Challenge of C.S. Lewis’s Sermon ‘Learning in War-time,’” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 3 October 2011.


“Lewis for Our Times: Principles of Cultural Apologetics in the Writings of Rowan Williams,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 3 October 2011.


“The Perils of (post)Postmodernism and the Joy of Incarnational Humanism,” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 22 August 2011.


“Newman on Literature.” Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton, 8 December 2010.


“Chaucer’s Tyranny-Resistant Fellowship of the Imagination” St. Jerome's University Faculty Research Grant (2015)
“Academic Conversations about Rowan Williams’s Theology of Art” St. Jerome's University Faculty Research Grant (2013-2014)
“Annotating Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Commentary on Romans” St. Jerome's University Faculty Research Grant (2007-2008)
Additional Disbursement (awarded on merit) for the CCCU “Networking Grant” (2001-2002)
Council of Christian Colleges and Universities “Networking Grant” Project:  Neohumanism and the Ethical Turn in Theological Perspective (1999-2002)


“The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision” St. Jerome's University Aid to Scholarly Publications Fund (2015-2016)
SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (1995-1997)
SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship (1992-1993)


University of Waterloo, Federation of Students (Feds) Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award (2018)
Excellence in Publishing Award- Theology (3rd place) - Association of Catholic Publishers (2017)
The Dean’s Innovative Teaching Award (2000)
Overseas Research Scheme Award (1990-1992)


ENGL 101A: Introduction to Literary Studies

ENGL 200A: Survey of British Literature 1

ENGL 200B: Survey of British Literature 2

RS 291: Special Topics: The Sacramental Imagination

ENGL 251: Literary Theory and Criticism

ENGL 251B: Criticism 2

RS 291: Special Topics [Topic: The Sacramental Imagination]

ENGL 309A: Rhetoric, Classical to Enlightenment

ENGL 309B: Medieval to Pre-Modern Rhetoric

ENGL 310A: Chaucer 1

ENGL 310B: Chaucer 2

HUMSC 498: Directed Studies in Human Sciences

CT 602: The History of Catholicism

ENGL 705:  Studies in Old and Middle English Literature



Medieval English Literature

Medieval Humanism

Medieval Rhetoric

Literature and Theology

Literary Theory


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.



St. Jerome's University

Acting Chair, Department of Religious Studies (2019-2021)

HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 Committee

Saint John’s Bible Committee                          

Interim Associate Dean (2011-2012)

Chair, Department of English (2008-2012)


University of Waterloo

Pascal Selection Committee (2017-present)

Undergraduate Operations Committee (2011-2012)

Undergraduate Associate Deans’ Seminar Group (2011-2012)

Examinations and Standings Committee (2006-2008)



Communio Circle of Waterloo (2006-present)

Cross Cultures (2015-present)

Senator, Redeemer University College (2009-2012)