Br. Nicholas Koss, O.S.B., Prior of Wimmer Priory in Taipei, Taiwan, was recently promoted to full professor at Fu Jen Catholic University after receiving final approval from the Ministry of Education.
Fu Jen Catholic University had originally been founded by the Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1925. Because of political turmoil in China and financial difficulties during the Great Depression, the Archabbey relinquished control of the University in the early 1930s. Not long after the establishment of the Communist government in China in 1949, Fu Jen Catholic University was closed. In the early 1960s, the University was re-established in Taiwan. It was at that time the Benedictines of Saint Vincent Archabbey agreed to set up a Priory in Taipei and to return to the University to teach.
Br. Nicholas has been teaching in the English Department of Fu Jen Catholic University since 1981. He first arrived in Taiwan in 1966 as a young monk following his graduation from Saint Vincent College. After Chinese language studies at the Jesuit-run Chabanel Institute of Chinese, he entered Indiana University in Bloomington to study Comparative Literature and received his MA and Ph.D. His dissertation was a textual study of one of the classic Chinese novels, Journey to the West, which is about the travels of a Chinese Buddhist monk to India to get Buddhist sutras to bring back to China.
Besides teaching in the English Department at Fu Jen Catholic University, Br. Nicholas also teaches in the Graduate Institute of Comparative Literature and in the Graduate Institute of Chinese Literature. Previously he also taught in the Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation Studies, which he helped establish at Fu Jen Catholic University in the late 1980s. Br. Nicholas was the Director of the Graduate Institute of English Literature from 1982 until 1988.
Br. Nicholas’ promotion to professor was mainly based on his publication in 1999 of the book The Best and Fairest Land: Medieval Images of China. A Chinese version of this book is now in preparation. Since his days as a graduate student, Br. Nicholas has been studying the image of China in Western literature. He has also taught many courses at Fu Jen Catholic University on this topic. His next book will be on images of China in 16th century England.
For many years, Br. Nicholas has been translating Chinese literature into English, especially for the journal The Chinese Pen (Taipei). His translations for this journal have been frequently anthologized and one won an American award for translation in 1999.
Another area of interest for Br. Nicholas is the relationship between literature and religion. In 1986, he was the Conference Director for the Fu Jen Catholic University First International Conference on Literature and Religion which featured the fiction of Catholic authors Graham Greene, Endo Shosaku and Wang Wen-hsing. In 1990 he again was the Conference Director for the Fu Jen Catholic University Second International Conference on Literature and Religion which dealt with poetry and the Transcendent in French, Chinese and American literature. For the 1996 Fu Jen Catholic University Third International Conference on Literature and Religion, dealing with drama and feminine spirituality, he was the Associate Conference Director. At present, he is assisting with preparations for the Fourth International Conference to be held in the fall of this year. Br. Nicholas is also Director of a conference on the Bible and Chinese culture which will take place at Fu Jen Catholic University in January 2002.
Since 1994, Br. Nicholas has been involved with the Benedictine Commission on China, for which he is Executive Secretary. The purposes of this Commission include generating interest in China among Benedictine monasteries throughout the world, and assisting and coordinating Benedictine projects related to China. Br. Nicholas also serves on the Executive Committee for the association of Benedictine superiors in East Asia.
In recent years, Br. Nicholas has also been assisting with the Benedictine parish in Linkou that was founded by Benedictine Frs. John Murtha and Claude Pollak in the 1970s.
Brother Nicholas was born in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He is a son of the late Nicholas F. Koss and Katherine (Hornack) Koss and the late Rose (Malchano) Koss. His sisters are Mary Anne Flynn of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Sally Rowse of Beaver.
He attended Beaver Area High School. He made simple profession of monastic vows on July 2, 1964 and solemn profession of vows in July of 1967.