English, Department of


Date of this Version



From: D.W. Robertson, Jr., Uncollected Essays, with a Foreword by Paul A. Olson (Lincoln, NE: Zea Books, 2017), pp. vii-xix.


© 2017 Paul A. Olson

The complete text of the book is available here: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/zeabook/60/


During the late summer of 1992, I received a call from Darryl Gless, a professor of Renaissance literature at the University of North Carolina and my former student, asking me if it would be all right if he and other people looking after the literary remains of D. W. Robertson would send me a package of published and unpublished articles that Robertson had left behind upon his death in July of that year. Gless had been a friend of Dr. and Mrs. Robertson in Chapel Hill, visiting with them frequently while trying a bit to look after their well-being in old age.

Professor Gless said that he and other former students of Professor Robertson wanted me to see what could be done about collecting and publishing Robbie’s literary remains. Though I was slightly intimidated, I consented to take on the project. I offered to receive the items and promised to try to distribute the materials. At the time, I had good contacts with the University of Nebraska Press, which had published a number of Robertsonian pieces, and with a number of other places that had published analyses much in the vein of Robertson’s. I also had a telephone call from Robbie’s son, expressing his interest in my making public the items in the package through computerized publication if book avenues were not available.

Unfortunately, in the 1990s there was little interest in publishing Robertsonian material, largely because his research and interpretive methods, always controversial, had become increasingly unpopular with the rise of deconstructionism and New Historicism. Indeed, Robbie told me, late in his life, that he had refused to have A Preface to Chaucer translated into Japanese because he thought that his way of doing things no longer had any serious following. Though the New York Times obituary said that he was “widely regarded as this [the twentieth] century’s most influential Chaucer scholar,” the halls of academe echoed with the idea that his methods were losing all of the battles with the French fancies. Eventually, after talking to a few people about methods of publication and failing to find one, I deposited the trove in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries’ Special Collections so scholars could at least access them at another time. In later years, I felt guilty that I had not succeeded in fulfilling the trust that Gless and members of the Robertson family placed in me. I hoped that digitized access to the work could be prepared but was not clear about how.