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A note from Suzanne Matheson on former colleague Barrie Ruth Straus

Published on: Tue, 10/07/2014
Last Modified: Tue, 10/07/2014 - 11:30am


Barrie Ruth Straus, who taught Medieval literature and Women’s Studies at the University of Windsor from 1990 to 2006, was known for her pioneering work on Chaucer, feminism and psychoanalysis. She was born in Winnipeg in 1943 and took her BA at the University of Oregon and PhD at the University of Iowa. She taught for many years in the English department at the University of Florida before relocating to Windsor and Detroit. She was involved in building Women’s Studies programs at both institutions, and parlayed her interest in critical theory and gender into important articles on the feminine voice in Middle English literature. Barrie Ruth’s work on the Canterbury Tales and Margery Kempe helped shape feminist analysis of the period and continues to be much cited, discussed and anthologized. She was a rigorous, intelligent critic with the best kind of skepticism: a wariness concerning entrenched ideas and established forms of power, tempered by compassion for the complexities of real people. As my friend she was intensely loyal, kind and generous—a strong, supportive colleague, a mentor, an honorary aunt to my children, a confidante. She bore years of serious ill-health with resolution and optimism, passing away peacefully in hospital on Sept.17th. She had told me with characteristic bravery she was ready.

 

“Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimmages,

And palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes

To felme halwes, couthe in sundry londes”

 

C. Suzanne Matheson