Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to Chaucer

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to Chaucer

Article excerpt

A Companion to Chaucer, ed. Peter Brown (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). XVII +515 pp. ISBN 0-631-21332-5. L80.00/199.95.

One might wonder if another guide to Chaucer were really necessary, but Peter Brown's Companion should be commended for trying hard to present a fresh face, and at least all the essays contained within it are original. The twenty-nine chapters aim to strike a balance between textual analysis and cultural context. They are not all the same, but they do all follow the same formula: each offers an account of existing scholarship in the given area and a discussion of the key issues whch are then applied to two or three specific passages from Chaucer's works. Frequent subheadings signpost the distinct sections, and each contribution ends with an annotated bibliography. The volume avoids the by now rather hackneyed structure which is dependent on an imagined chronology of Chaucer's works, choosing to adopt a more disparate approach which privileges issues and themes. Thus chapters are devoted to broad topics such as 'Christian ideologies' (Nicholas Watson), 'Geography and travel' (Scott D. Westrem), 'Contemporary English writers' (James Simpson), and 'Science' (Irma Taavitsainen). The individual contributors and chapers are too numerous to list here, but some idea of the scope of the volume's coverage can be gained from a sample of its wares. The alphabetical arrangement of chapters means that we begin, unusually, with a discussion of 'Afterlife' (Carolyn Collette), and the next two sections, 'Authority' (Andrew Galloway) and 'Bodies' (Linda Ehrsam Voigts), perhaps give the impression that the collection will have a more conceptual focus than it actually does. …

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