Geoffrey Chaucer, the Critical Heritage

By Derek Brewer | Go to book overview

Notes
1
‘Essays in Mediaeval History presented to Thomas Frederick Tout’ (Manchester University Press, 1925).
2
My reason for having, rather unfairly, traversed Mr Manly’s argument, since it appears in a book of public lectures which he modestly says is not for specialists, is that it is a theory about which he seems fairly confident. He expounds it so clearly that I do not think I can have mistaken his arguments, in spite of the popular form in which they are cast. This question of Chaucer’s education is one where the literary and administrative historians meet on common ground, and it is one on which, therefore, stress must inevitably be laid in this address. I read with delight Mr Manly’s invigorating book, which I regard as an excellent illustration of the way our knowledge of Chaucer has been amplified and humanised by the researches of a host of workers into the records of the state. Among these Professor Manly and his colleague, Professor Rickert, occupy places of distinction.
3
This is a new fact due to a discovery of Professor E. Rickert, first revealed in her paper in the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ (September 27, 1928). Though I was of course unaware of it when this address was delivered, it rounds off the statement as to Chaucer’s disgrace so well that I have ventured to incorporate it in my narrative.

46.

WILLIAM EMPSON, THE AMBIGUITY OF CHAUCER

1930

William Empson (born 1906), educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, was Professor of English Literature in the University of Sheffield, 1953-71. His ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ (arising out of undergraduate essays) offers one of the most brilliantly original and perceptive pieces of incidental criticism of Chaucer ever written. Beginning with a close inspection of the poetic text, Empson re-discovers the riches of ambiguity, commonplace, hyperbole, pun, existing in Chaucer’s apparently plain and simple style, all of which calls for interpretation, not

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