Yale Professor Receives Medal of Merit from the Czech Republic

Peter Demetz, the Sterling Professor Emeritus of Germanic Language and Literature at Yale University, recently received a Medal of Merit in the fields of scholarship and culture from the Czech Republic.

The award was presented to Demetz, a native of Prague, by President Vaclav Havel in a ceremony in Prague on October 28, the National Day of the Czech Republic.

Described in the citation for the award as “a scientist of the German language and promoter of Czech culture in the world,” Demetz has written extensively on the literature and history of the country where he was born in 1922 and that he left in 1948.

His most recently published book, “Prague in Black and Gold,” is a history and personal memoir of the city which was home and inspiration to many towering figures of European civilization, Kepler, Mozart, Rabbi Judah Loew, Dvorak, Smetana, Rilke and Kafka among them.

Other books by Demetz include “Marx, Engels and the Poets,” “German Post-War Literature: A Critical Introduction” and “After the Fires: Writing in the Germanies, Austria and Switzerland.”

Previously Demetz has won two other major awards for his outstanding contributions to the study of German culture. In 1971 he received the Golden Goethe Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 1984 he was given the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the German government.

Demetz earned his first doctorate from Charles University in Prague in 1948. After immigrating to the United States that year and earning a master’s degree at Columbia University, he went on to receive a Ph.D from Yale, where he has been on the faculty since 1956.

While on the faculty at Yale, Demetz has also been a visiting professor at various other American universities, including Columbia, Penn. State, University of Florida, University of Iowa and Princeton.

He was president of the Modern Language Association of America in 1981 and served as a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in West Berlin.

Demetz retired from Yale in 1991.

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Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345