Department of English

University of Toronto

Warkentin, Germaine

Germaine with Morris scarfGermaine Warkentin
Victoria College
Professor Emeritus Germaine Warkentin's Homepage
Faculty Bookshelf

Germaine Warkentin relates: I studied Honours Philosophy at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1955. I began my apprenticeship as a teacher and critic by reviewing and writing on films in the Toronto of the late 1950s and early 1960s, experience that was useful when I returned to school to take first an MA (Manitoba) and then a PhD (Toronto) in English , specializing in the Early Modern period. My apprenticeship as a book historian took place concurrently: I sold books in a department store, worked in the art department of a national magazine, wrote promotional copy at a university press, and when I moved to Winnipeg as a bride “traveled” the press’s publications to local bookstores. I also worked in the “morgue” (photo collection) of the Winnipeg Free Press. Among my favourite memories are the women who sat chatting in a circle around a revolving table, assembling day after day the gatherings that made up the Press’s books, the sound of the linotype and monotype machines thundering outside my office door, and the way the whole building shook when at the newspaper the great presses began to roll to produce the 11.00 am edition. Though no expert, I was an early adapter of digital resources, and had my first e-mail account by 1989.

Other memories: working on the part-autograph manuscript of Petrarch’s Canzoniere in the Vatican Library, and in Florence handling a fine Renaissance book rescued from the flood of 1966; the sturdy old volume was as beautiful as the day it had been printed. Then there were the years of research at Penshurst and in the Kent Archives in Maidstone, working on the Sidney family library catalogue of 1665. I visited Tulsa to see Louis Nicolas’s superb Codex Canadensis at the Gilcrease Institute, and studied the two Native ledger books in the same collection. And finally, when I was deep in the editing of Pierre-Esprit Radisson’s Voyages, there was the experience of discovering two unknown writings in the explorer’s hand among the manuscripts of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

I’ve been fortunate in my wonderful graduate students, who produced theses on a range of fascinating topics and instructed me in everything a thesis advisor ought to know – and more. I’ve been fortunate in my clever daughter Juliet, who made her reputation as a brilliant magazine editor, and in my husband, historical geographer John Warkentin, who commented informatively on how Petrarch must have managed his ascent of Mont Ventoux as we drove up it in our little car,* who altered his planned itinerary one day long ago so I could visit Petrarch’s house at Arquá, and who made sure I noticed that Radisson probably did reach the edge of the prairie.

* Actually, what he said was “So Petrarch lived around here when he was a boy?” “Yes, he did.” "Well, you can’t tell me he hadn’t been up here on a horse a dozen times before he made the famous climb!”

smblue books

Recent and Forthcoming Publications:
“Robert Sidney, Second Earl of Leicester (1595–1677)” in Ashgate Research Companion to the Sidneys, 1500-1700, Volume 1: Lives, edited by Michael Brennan, Margaret Hannay, and Mary Ellen Lamb. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2015, 123-132.

[Review] Writing as Material Practice: Substance, Surface and Medium. Ed. by Kathryn E.Piquette and Ruth D. Woodhouse. London: Ubiquity Press. 2013. 342 pp. And, A Lakota War Book from the Little Big Horn: The Pictographic Autobiography of Half Moon. Ed. by Castle McLaughlin. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Library and Peabody Museum Press. 2013. The Library, 7.16.2, June 2015, 195-200

“Approaches to the Design of Petrarch’s Canzoniere” in Approaches to Teaching Petrarch’s Canzoniere, ed. Christopher Kleinhenz and Andrea Dini. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2014.

The History of Mr. Radison’s Transactions: William Yonge’s Letter, 1692.” The Champlain Society: Findings / Trouvailles, January 2014.

“Dead Metaphor or Working Model? ‘The Book’ in Native America,” in Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americas, ed. Matt Cohen and Jeffrey Glover. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.

[with Natalie Zemon Davis and James K. McConica] “Calling the World to Come and Share Our Finds”: Three Memoirs and Some Highlights from the Founding of Renaissance and Reformation, Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 37:3 (Summer 2014), 53-67.

The Collected Writings of Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Volume 1, The Voyages (2012). Volume 2, The Port Nelson Relations, Miscellaneous Writings, and Related Documents (2014). The Champlain Society and McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[Review] Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature.By Jeffrey Todd Knight. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2013.The Library, 7.15.4, December 2014, 453-55.

[With Joseph L. Black and William R. Bowen]. The Library of the Sidneys of Penshurst Place, ca. 1665. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

“’The Age of Frye’: Dissecting the Anatomy of Criticism, 1957-1966.” Canadian Literature no. 214, Autumn, 2012. 15-29. Honourable mention, Canadian Literature “Best Essay” prize. 2013.

The Future of Northrop Frye: Centennial Perspectives, guest editors Germaine Warkentin and Linda Hutcheon. Special issue, University of Toronto Quarterly, 81.1, Spring 2012.

“The Descent of the Book”: Keynote speech, conference of SHARP, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publication. Dublin, Ireland, June 29, 2012.

Things Not Easily Believed: Introducing the Early Modern Relation. Guest editors, Thomas V. Cohen and Germaine Warkentin. Special issue, Renaissance and Reformation. 34.1–2, Winter-Spring/hiver-printemps 2011.

"Radisson Ėdité par l'Abbé Bernou: Les Prétendues «Pétitions» de 1677 et 1681." In Éditer la nouvelle france, ed. Grégoire Holtz and Andreas Motsch. (Québec, Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 2011), 151-175.

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