30 Great Myths About Chaucer

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2020-04-21
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


The facts and fictions that continue to shape our understanding of Chaucer and his place in literary tradition

Is Chaucer the father of English literature? The first English poet? Was he a feminist?  A political opportunist?  A spy? Is Chaucer’s language too difficult for modern readers? 30 Great Myths about Chaucer explores the widely held ideas and opinions about the medieval poet, discussing how ‘myths’ have influenced Chaucer’s reception history and interpretations of his poetry through the centuries.

This unique text offers original insights on the character of Chaucer, the nature of his works, the myths that inform our conceptions of Chaucer, and the underlying causes of these myths. Each accessible and engaging chapter focuses on a specific myth, including those surrounding Chaucer’s romantic life, political leanings, religious views, personal struggles, financial challenges, ideas about chivalry, representations of social class, and many others. More than simply correcting inaccurate facts or clarifying common misconceptions about Chaucer, the text delves deeper to address how the myths have shaped the critical interpretation and enduring literary legacy of Chaucer. This innovative volume:

  • Explores how generations of readers continue to shape understanding of Chaucer
  • Highlights the intersection of medievalism and Chaucer studies
  • Helps readers detach myths about Chaucer from critical readings of his works
  • Examines whether myths about Chaucer are based on historical fact or literary interpretation
  • Discusses the history of reading Chaucer in contexts of biography, criticism, and popular culture

30 Great Myths about Chaucer is an indispensable resource for academics, researchers, graduate students, upper-level undergraduates, and general readers with interest in Chaucer and early English and Middle Ages literature.

Author Biography

Thomas A. Prendergast is Professor of English at the College of Wooster, USA. He is the author of Poetical Dust: Poets' Corner and the Making of Britain, co-author of Affective Medievalism: Love, Abjection and Discontent and co-editor of Chaucer and the Subversion of Form.

Stephanie Trigg is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of English Literature at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is author of Shame and Honor: A Vulgar History of the Order of the Garter and co-author of Affective Medievalism: Love, Abjection and Discontent.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Mythical Chaucer ix

Myth 1 Chaucer is the Father of English Literature 1

Myth 2 Chaucer was the First English Poet 7

Myth 3 Chaucer Suffered an Unrequited Love 13

Myth 4 Chaucer’s Marriage was Unhappy 19

Myth 5 Chaucer’s Son Thomas was John of Gaunt’s Bastard 25

Myth 6 Chaucer’s Language is too Difficult for Modern Readers 31

Myth 7 The Canterbury Pilgrims Represent all Social Classes and Character Types 37

Myth 8 The Canterbury Pilgrims are Based on Real People 45

Myth 9 The Canterbury Pilgrims form a “Merry Company” 51

Myth 10 Chaucer was a Feminist 57

Myth 11 Chaucer was Guilty of Rape 65

Myth 12 Chaucer had a Falling out with his Best Friend 71

Myth 13 Chaucer Lived in the Middle Ages 77

Myth 14 Chaucer was a Proto‐Protestant 83

Myth 15 Chaucer was Anti‐Semitic 87

Myth 16 Chaucer was a Spy 93

Myth 17 Chaucer was a Crook 99

Myth 18 Chaucer was a Political Opportunist 105

Myth 19 The Wife of Bath Murdered her Husband 109

Myth 20 Chaucer “Outs” the Pardoner 115

Myth 21 Chaucer Never Finished the Canterbury Tales 121

Myth 22 Chaucer is Obscene 127

Myth 23 Chaucer was Skeptical of Chivalry 133

Myth 24 Chaucer Described Himself in his Works 139

Myth 25 Chaucer Wrote the First Novel in English 145

Myth 26 Chaucer was in Danger of Being Thrown in Debtor’s Prison 151

Myth 27 Chaucer Renounced his Works on his Deathbed 155

Myth 28 Chaucer is Buried in his Own Tomb 161

Myth 29 Chaucer was the First Poet Laureate 167

Myth 30 Contemporary Literary Theory is Irrelevant to Chaucer 173

Coda 179

Further Reading 185

Works Cited 189

Index 203

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