Wolf, Kenneth Baxter 1957–
Wolf, Kenneth Baxter 1957–
Born June 1, 1957, in Santa Barbara, CA; son of Baxter Keyt and Ruth Elizabeth Adams Wolf; partner of Friederike Liese-Lotte von Franqué; children: Owen Clement, Eleanor Kashmar. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1979, M.A., 1981, Ph.D., 1985.
Office—Pomona College, History Department, 551 N. College Way, Claremont, CA 91711. E-mail—[email protected]
Academic and historian. Stanford University, Claremont, CA, lecturer in history, 1984-85; Pomona College, Claremont, CA, visiting assistant professor, 1985-86, assistant professor, 1986-93, associate professor, 1993-2001, professor, 2001-06, John Sutton Miner Professor of History, 2006—, history department chair, 1995-98, associate dean of the college, 2006—. Whiting Fellow in the Humanities, 1983-84; fellow, Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, 1989-91; fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities 2004-05.
Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain, Liverpool University Press (Liverpool, England), 1990.
Making History: The Normans and Their Historians in Eleventh-Century Italy, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1995.
Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Journal of Medieval History and Church History.
Kenneth Baxter Wolf is an American historian whose research interests include Spain and the Mediterranean in the medieval era, Christian views and perceptions of Islam, and the concept of saints and the idea of sanctity. Wolf's second book, Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain, brings forward texts previously not translated into English for the benefit of modern scholars and historians. James J. O'Donnell, writing in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, commented that "the text is in a series that is to be lauded and which has already produced volumes as diverse as Iamblichus ‘On the Pythagorean Life’ and the Roman Liber Pontificalis." Roger Collins, reviewing the book in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, mentioned that "in general this book deserves a warm welcome; all the more so if it succeeds in furthering wider recognition of the inherent interest of the study of the history of early medieval Spain."
Wolf next published Making History: The Normans and Their Historians in Eleventh-Century Italy in 1995. The book aims to show how medieval historians who lived during the Norman conquests of Italy, including Amatus of Montecassino, William of Apulia, and Geoffrey Malaterra, altered the events to give a sympathetic lean toward the Norman cause. Jeremy Johns, writing in the English Historical Review, stated: "That southern Italy is new territory for Wolf is shown by a sprinkling of errors in the orthography of personal and placenames, in the titulature of local and neighbouring rulers, and in topography. A good editor should have spotted these, as well as the occasional stylistic infelicities." Nevertheless, Johns summarized that the book "is generally a well-written and unusually readable book that students of both Norman Italy and early medieval historiography will find accessible and stimulating, and from which professionals will gain valuable insights." Nicholas Birns, reviewing the book in Clio, claimed that it "is the first in-depth account of the historians who told the tale of how the Normans came to rule in Italy. It is a consciously historiographical book, as interested in contributing to the theory of history-writing and exploring its ‘epistemological pitfalls’ as it is in elucidating the meaning of certain written histories." Birns also observed: "Wolf recognizes that the writers he studies are active agents in the composition of their own subject-matter; they make history, rather than passively reflect either contemporary events or their own literary tradition."
In 2003 Wolf published The Poverty of Riches: St. Francis of Assisi Reconsidered. The account analyzes St. Francis of Assisi and his choice to live in poverty, but it differs from many laudatory accounts by arguing that his self-serving ploy actually did more to harm the involuntarily poor people of the time. Jill R. Webster, writing in Church History, said that "this fascinating study … makes a valuable contribution to Franciscan studies and presents a very convincing thesis." Arthur Jones, however, wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that "many of his points merit weighing, but there are flaws in this book. Wolf front-end loads his case against Francis as much by how he writes as in what he produces as argument. Consequently the whole thing comes off as an entertainment for fellow readers of the Oxford Studies in Historical Theology—‘Hey guys, see who I've deconstructed!’" Nina C. Ayoub, reviewing the book in the Chronicle of Higher Education, remarked that "Wolf knows he's taking on an icon" in writing about St. Francis of Assisi, considered to be "the most appealing saint ever produced by the Roman Catholic Church."
Writing in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Neslihan Senocak described the account as "an informed, revisionist brain-storming" concerning St. Francis of Assisi's concept of voluntary poverty. Senocak pointed out that "Wolf's sources are largely the anecdotes concerning material poverty in the early accounts of the life of Francis. Laudably, the author leaves out the fourteenth-century sources on the life of the saint that are tainted with the later controversies within the order on the issue of poverty." And Donald Sullivan, writing in History: Review of New Books, concluded that "this is a lively book with a provocative thesis. It does at times stretch ambiguous [examples] of scanty evidence to support questionable speculations," he noted, but added that the book "should stimulate a fresh discussion of Franciscan poverty and of the idea and practice of poverty generally in the Middle Ages."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October 1, 1989, James W. Brodman, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 1084; April 1, 2004, E. Randolph Daniel, review of The Poverty of Riches: St. Francis of Assisi Reconsidered, p. 592.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 1991, James J. O'Donnell, review of Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain.
Catholic Historical Review, January 1, 1989, Edward P. Colbert, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 136; October 1, 2003, David Burr, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 761.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 1995, review of Making History: The Normans and Their Historians in Eleventh-Century Italy, p. 672.
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2003, Nina C. Ayoub, review of The Poverty of Riches.
Church History, March 1, 1990, William E. Matheny, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 75; December 1, 2004, Jill R. Webster, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 842.
Clio, January 1, 1997, Nicholas Birns, review of Making History, p. 229.
English Historical Review, April 1, 1991, Roger Collins, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 431; September 1, 1997, Jeremy Johns, review of Making History, p. 959.
Historian, March 22, 1997, Armand O. Citarella, review of Making History, p. 716.
History and Theory, January 1, 1996, review of Making History, p. 150.
History: Review of New Books, September 22, 2003, Donald Sullivan, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 25.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, April 1, 1997, H.E.J. Cowdrey, review of Making History, p. 290.
International Journal of Middle East Studies, August 1, 1991, Sabine Maccormack, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 453.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April 1, 1990, Hugh Kennedy, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 335; January 1, 1993, Roger Collins, review of Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain, p. 151; January 1, 2006, Neslihan Senocak, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 132.
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, September 22, 1990, Susan Frank, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 784.
Medium Aevum, March 22, 1997, Peter Damian-Grint, review of Making History, p. 171.
Muslim World, July 1, 1989, Norma Salem, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain.
National Catholic Reporter, May 23, 2003, Arthur Jones, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 25.
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, April 1, 1989, Thomas F. Glick, review of Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, p. 512; April 1, 1996, William A. Percy, review of Making History, p. 507; July 1, 2004, John Coakley, review of The Poverty of Riches, p. 861.
Theology, May 1, 2004, Bernard SSF, review of The Poverty of Riches.
Library of Iberian Resources, University of Central Arkansas Web site,http://libro.uca.edu/ (June 18, 2008), author profile.
Pomona College History Department Web site,http://www.history.pomona.edu/ (June 17, 2008), author profile.