G Ronald Murphy




Department of German
General profile


+1 202-687-6051




459 ICC


Father Murphy was born in Trenton, New Jersey, which, as he explains, is widely known to all Trenton scholars as the first American city ever occupied by a German Army -- the Hessians, in 1776. Whether or not that constitutes probable cause, he has always nurtured great interest in and affection for everything German. This culminated in doctoral studies at Harvard and abiding interests in literature that resulted in his work on Bertolt Brecht and Brecht's use of scripture, Brecht and the Bible (Chapel Hill, 1980).

Also fascinated with the origins of things, he turned next to the Heliand, considered the earliest German epic, and produced a definitive study of the author's Germanic spirituality, The Saxon Savior, published in 1989 (Oxford). This was followed by a translation and commentary, The Heliand, The Saxon Gospel (Oxford), which was selected upon publication in 1992 as the alternate choice for the Book-of-the-Month Club.

In the year 2000 Father Murphy published The Owl, the Raven and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms' Magic Fairy Tales, (Oxford) an examination of the magic confluence of the Germanic and the Christian in the work of the Brothers Grimm. Then, in 2006, he finished a quest and published the successful results as Gemstone of Paradise, The Holy Grail in Wolfram's Parzival, (Oxford). His most recent book, Tree of Salvation: Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North, (Oxford) was published in October, 2013. It is an examination of the influence of Germanic myth’s great tree, Yggdrasil, in the design of the stave churches of Norway, the Dream of the Rude, Bornholm’s round churches, and other religious artifacts. The book ends with the Christmas tree.

He truly enjoys literature and language, teaching German and sharing the great works of German literature with his students. In his opinion, the whole world turns around God, people, stories, and realization.


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