Photo of Norm Klassen.DPhil, Oxford
MA, Waterloo
BA, Waterloo
BTh, Canadian Bible College

Extension: 28223
Office: SJU Sweeney Hall 2205


Photo credit: Thomas Brauer


A prairie boy, I once upon a time was a double-major in English and History at the University of Waterloo, before going on to do my doctoral work at the University of Oxford. I am now in my second decade back on the campus of UWaterloo and enjoy teaching courses ranging from introductions to literature and literary theory and the survey of British literature to my specialty, Chaucer.

In my research, I am interested in literature as theology. My award-winning book about The Canterbury Tales, The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision, appeared at the end of 2016. Please see my Current Research for more details. I have also written recently on literature and poetry for the Zondervan Dictionary of Christian Spirituality.

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 the understanding of categories such as “knowledge,” “love poetry,” and “belief.” With my friend and hermeneutics specialist Jens Zimmermann, 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 (of whatever kind). We articulated some of these ideas in an introductory way in The Passionate Intellect (2006). 

When I’m not working, I enjoy cycling, creative writing, and playing snooker (the latter my personal reenactment of the myth of Sisyphus). I live in Hamilton with my wife. We have three grown-up sons.

Selected Publications


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

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

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


“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.

“Mary’s Swollen Womb: What It Looks Like to Overcome Tyranny in The Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale.” Renascence 68.2 (2016): 77-92.

“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.

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

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

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

Fellowships & Awards

  • 2017 Excellence in Publishing Award – Theology (3rd place) – Association of Catholic Publishers
  • Council of Christian Colleges and Universities “Networking Grant: Neohumanism and the Ethical Turn in Theological Perspective”
  • The Dean’s Innovative Teaching Award (TWU)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship
  • Overseas Research Scheme Award

Current research

I am currently working on two projects, an introduction to literary theory and a novel about the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris. My recent book The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision: Chaucer on Overcoming Tyranny and Becoming Ourselves offers a theological reading of Chaucer’s political vision.

In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer asks a basic human question, How do we overcome tyranny? The symbolic pilgrim fellowship embodies the answer in its enduring togetherness. 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 effectively calls all would-be members of the pilgrim fellowship that is redeemed humanity to behave as artists, interpretively responding to God in the finitude of their existence together. 

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Chaucer
  • Medieval English Literature
  • Medieval Humanism
  • Literature and Theology
  • Literary Theory
University of Waterloo

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