Eckehard P. Simon, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Emeritus, died on May 2, 2020. Despite his modest demeanor, he was a brilliant speaker and a distinguished scholar who published six books and numerous essays, and did extensive work identifying
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medieval manuscripts at Houghton Library. Educated at Columbia College and Harvard University, Eckehard Simon taught courses at Harvard from 1964 to 2009. His teaching of both undergraduate and graduate students focused on two special fields: the German medieval court and its literature, and the emergence of theater and performance in medieval German settings. Eckehard had a gift for presenting this material in a way that appealed even to students who came to his classes with little or no background knowledges: his two Core courses were richly illustrated by slides and punctuated by the humor that he brought to presenting them. He made sure that the term “medieval” retained the inherent excitement that new readers discover in it. Graduate students in Germanic and related departments often gained their first experiences of teaching the Middle Ages as TFs in one or another of these Core courses. All graduate students in Germanic Languages and Literatures took Eckehard Simon’s introduction to Middle High German literature, where he insisted that they familiarize themselves with at least 200 poems, among other texts, such as the courtly epics. Later, he also offered a course on the history of the German Language taught by study of texts from different time periods.
Eckehard Simon’s devotion to medieval scholarship was revealed in his attention to iconographical and textual details in texts that had often been discovered only recently, as well as in his painstaking work in German archives and libraries , whose records enriched our understanding of drama as a crucial element in early urban culture. In support of his scholarly research, he received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Foundation. From his early book Neidhart von Reuental (Boston: Twayne, 1975) to his later books, including a research study, The Theatre of Medieval Europe (Cambridge UP, 1991) and his important book, Die Anfänge des weltlichen deutschen Schauspiels, 1370-1530: Untersuchung und Dokumentation (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003), he established himself as a towering figure in medieval studies.
Eckehard Simon is survived by his widow, Eileen Nicole Simon, and three sons, Anders, Matthew, and Frederick, as well as by two sisters, Hannelore Rogers and Gundula Lee. Because of the corona virus pandemic, to which he succumbed, a Memorial Service will be held at a date to be announced. Instead of flowers, Eileen Simon would appreciate donations to research on aphasic language disorders, which afflicted her husband following a medical procedure in 2014.