Foreign languages faculty

Michael Kensak, Ph.D.

Professor of English and German
Director of Integrative General Education

Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
M.A., Vanderbilt University
B.A., Princeton University

RAM 1st


Through medieval and renaissance literature, linguistics and German, Dr. Kensak seeks to impart a love for words—their meaning, power and history. He earned degrees in German and music from Princeton and his Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt. Kensak's research on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales involves medieval pilgrimage narratives, language theory, alchemical lore, and the idea of spiritual inebriation. His work has appeared in journals like The Chaucer Review, Studies in Philology, and Philological Quarterly. Funded by the Lilly Foundation, Kensak produced a multimedia German textbook which he uses in four German courses. In addition to German, he is proficient in Latin, Middle English, and Old English, and has a reading knowledge of several more languages.



    • "Grassroots General Education Assessment.”  60-Minute Workshop Presentation. Purdue University Assessment Institute, October 2013.   
    • Grüß Gott!: A Multimedia German Program. Funded by the Lilly Foundation. Used at Northwestern College in German 101, 102, 201, and 202. Self-published, 2011.
    • “What Transpires in Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’: A Pattern of Subversive Allusions.”  Northern Plains Conference on Early British Literature, Dordt College April 2013.
    • “Marketing the New Liberal Arts.”  Lilly Scholar Presentation, Northwestern College, March 2010, September 2011, April 2012.
    • “Creating Community in the Online Classroom: Best Practices and Christian Perspectives.” Northwestern College Faculty Development Seminar, March 2009.
    • “From Pixar to PowerPoint: Using 2D Animations in the Language Classroom.”  Northwestern College Faculty Development Seminar, February 2008.   
    • “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Medieval Hylomorphic Theory.”  2006 Southeastern Medieval Academy Meeting, Stetson University.
    • "My first matere I wil yow telle": Losing (and Finding) Your Place in Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess. In "Seyd in forme and reverence": Chaucerian Essays in Memory of Emerson Brown, eds. Tom Burton and John F. Plummer. Provo: Chaucer Studio: 2006.
    • “In Memoriam: Emerson Brown, Jr.” The Chaucer Review 37 (2002): 190-194.
    • “What Ails Chaucer's Cook?: Spiritual Alchemy and the Ending of The Canterbury Tales.” Philological Quarterly 80 (2001): 213-231.
    • “Apollo exterminans: The God of Poetry in Chaucer's Manciple's Tale.” Studies in Philology 98 (2001): 143-157.
    • “The Silences of Pilgrimage: Manciple's TaleParadisoAnticlaudianus.” The Chaucer Review 34 (1999): 190-206.  

    Professional involvements and accomplishments

    • Peer-reviewer for The Chaucer Review
    • Peer-reviewer for The University of Toronto Press
    • AP Rater (AP English Language, ETS)


    • American Association of Colleges & Universities


    • 2007         Finalist, Northwestern College Teaching Excellence Award
    • 2005-6     Research Sabbatical, Northwestern College
    • 2000        Colloquium Prize, Medieval Studies Colloquium, University of the South
    • 1998        Dissertation with Honors, Vanderbilt University
    • 1995        Novus Prize, Novus et Antiquus Conference, Ball State University
    • 1993        Graduated cum laude, Princeton University
    • 1992         Junior Paper Prize, Department of German, Princeton University
    • 1991         Class of 1860 Prize for Old English, Princeton University