The Complete Critical Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer

The Complete Critical Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer

The Complete Critical Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer

The Complete Critical Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer

Synopsis

This guide has a broad focus but one very clear aim: to equip you with all the knowledge you need to make your own new readings of Geoffery Chaucer's work. This comprehensive, user-friendly guide provides information on Chaucer's life, contexts and works, also outlining major critical views and interpretations from initial publication to the present.

Excerpt

Described by Dryden in 1700 as 'the Father of English poetry', Chaucer's position as presiding genius of English literature has remained remarkably intact throughout the six hundred years since his death in 1400. To us he is primarily the author of The Canterbury Tales, praised for his variety of tone, his irony, his ability to sketch character and caricature and also, as we get to know more of him, for his fascination with books, with the origins and telling of stories and for his intellectual range. Historical records present a very different figure: a page and courtier; a civil servant and collector of taxes who travelled abroad on undisclosed royal business; a man accused of rape and frequently summoned for debt, who lived in London and Kent, was buried in Westminster Abbey and later moved to become the first poet in 'Poet's Corner'. He lived in the turbulent times of the Hundred Years War with France and the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses, the Peasants' Revolt and the Black Death, yet little of this surfaces in his writing. To his contemporaries, he was an acclaimed translator, writer of lyrics and philosopher. This volume seeks to give some impression of all these aspects, while yet retaining a focus on his writings.

Part I is divided into a biography of Chaucer, with some discussion of the different Chaucers biographers have created over the years, and an overview of his literary and social contexts, which also serves as a brief introduction to late medieval England. Part II concentrates on his writing, covering every text currently believed to have been authored by Chaucer. As far as possible, they are treated chronologically, with fresh readings and suggested thematic links between texts. Some of these themes are then elaborated in Part III, which surveys Chaucer criticism, taking account of his place in linguisitic as well as literary study. Many areas which are currently commanding general attention have been debated for some time by Chaucer scholars: issues of the presentation of text, editing and the role of the audience are central to Chaucer study, and are enjoying new currency as our understanding of what constitutes a text is altered by the increasing use of electronic media in a change as radical as that from manuscript to print culture. Attitudes towards literary tradition are also pertinent, and Chaucer's standing as an icon for Englishness is touched upon. Other questions more specific to Chaucer are discussed in the light of modern criticism: are we content to praise Chaucer's presentation of women? What light

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