An Introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer

By Tison Pugh | Go to book overview

Preface
Chaucer and Genre Theory

The Father of English Literature: Geoffrey Chaucer holds this title with universal accord. Proving English literature as rich, sophisticated, and entertaining as the French and Italian masterpieces of the Middle Ages, Chaucer availed himself of the English language’s inherent poetry at a time when it was derided as an inelegant vernacular. This book introduces readers to Chaucer and his writings to spark an appreciation of the literary accomplishments that make him such an inspiring, provocative, and alluring figure in Western culture, with the explicit purpose of helping novice readers to navigate Chaucer’s work in its original Middle English.

Following the structure of the New Perspectives in Medieval Literature series, the first chapter of An Introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer provides an overview of Chaucer’s life in fourteenth-century England, a time marked by great dangers (including the Black Death), social unrest (including the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381), and complex court maneuverings (including the overthrow of King Richard II). The second chapter, which constitutes the bulk of the book, introduces Chaucer’s works, including his surreal dream visions Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, Parliament of Fowls, and Legend of Good Women; his masterpiece of love won and love lost during the Trojan War, Troilus and Criseyde; his incomplete masterpiece of sacred and profane voices clashing boisterously on a holy pilgrimage, the Canterbury Tales; and his miscellaneous verse addressing a variety of courtly, religious, and classical themes. Chaucer’s role in literary history provides the focus of the third chapter: previous writers and texts—including Greek and Roman authors of the classical

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