Cosman, Madeleine Pelner 1937-2006

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Cosman, Madeleine Pelner 1937-2006


See index for CA sketch: Born December 4, 1937, in New York, NY; died of complications from scleroderma, March 2, 2006, in Escondido, CA. Educator and author. An authority on medieval England and European history and culture, Cosman was a retired professor at the City College of the City University of New York and founder of the now-defunct Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Although she is best known for her expertise in all things medieval, Cosman led a diverse career that included earning a law degree and running her own company. She attended Barnard College, earning a B.A. in 1959, followed by an M.A. from Hunter College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Columbia in 1964. Her academic career was spent at the City University of New York system, beginning as a lecturer in English at Hunter College in 1959, an instructor in medieval English at Herbert H. Lehman College in the early 1960s, and as a professor of medieval English and comparative literature from 1964 until 1993 at City College. At City College she founded her institute in 1968, which closed the year she retired in 1993. Her fascination with life in medieval Europe included everything from dress and decoration, to food, music, art, social customs, and medicine. Her knowledge of the diet and medicine of those times led to her most well-known book, Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony (1976); her fascination with the law led her to earn a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in 1995; and her interest in medicine would find her establishing her own business, Medical Equity, a firm that purchased and sold medical practices during the 1980s and 1990s. Cosman was also an accomplished musician, playing the medieval lute, organized the annual medieval festival in Upper Manhattan, could pilot an airplane, and was an expert marksman with a gun (she served as a board member of the California Rifle and Pistol Association). Believing in the libertarian philosophy as expressed by novelist Ayn Rand, Cosman was also a board member of the conservative Wake Up America Foundation and gave frequent talks about the dangers of illegal immigration in America. Her publications, however, focused primarily on her medieval interests and include such books as Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar of Celebrations (1981), the children's title The Medieval Baker's Daughter: A Bilingual Adventure in Medieval Life with Costumes, Banners, Music, Food, and a Mystery Play (1984), andWomen at Work in Medieval Europe (2000).



Chronicle of Higher Education, March 31, 2006, p. A48.

New York Times, March 19, 2006, p. A29.