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Chaucer in Context

A Golden Age of English Poetry

Edited By Gerald Morgan

The study of the work of Geoffrey Chaucer – still regarded as a literary genius more than 600 years after his death – centres on the problems of detailed readings of his poetry (including in some cases the textual authority for these readings) and the historical context that gives them meaning. In some ways, the modern understanding of the shaping historical context was undermined in the second half of the twentieth century by the dogmatism of Robertsonian Augustinianism, as a basis for the interpretation of medieval literature in general and of Chaucer’s poetry in particular, and at the same time by the reactions of determined opposition provoked by this approach. Undeniably, medieval views often fail to coincide with modern ones and they are frequently uncomfortable for modern readers. Nevertheless, Chaucer’s brilliance as an observer of the human scene coexists with and irradiates these unfamiliar medieval ideas. The essays in this volume explore in detail the historical context of Chaucer’s poetry, in which orthodox Catholic ideas rather than revolutionary Wycliffite ones occupy the central position. At the same time, they offer detailed readings of his poetry and that of his famous contemporaries in an attempt to do justice to the independent and original work of these poetic masters, writing in the great royal households of England in the period 1360-1400.


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Acknowledgments vii Abbreviations ix Preface 1 SIMON HOROBIN Review 9 ANNE J. DUGGAN ‘The Hooly Blisful Martir for to Seke’ 15 ALAN J. FLETCHER Piers Plowman and the Benedictines 43 CAROLINE E. JONES A Lesson in Patience 63 GAVIN HUGHES Fourteenth-Century Weaponry, Armour and Warfare in Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 83 DAVID SCOTT-MACNAB Sir Thopas and his Lancegay 109 vi WILLIAM MARX An Absent King: Perceptions of the Politics of Power in the Reign of Richard II and the Middle English Prose Brut 135 GERALD MORGAN Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale: The Book of the Duke 153 BARRY WINDEATT Plea and Petition in Chaucer 189 MARY CARR The Fall of Lucifer and the Sin of Pride in Piers Plowman 217 A.V.C. SCHMIDT The Humanity of Pearl 245 BRENDAN O’CONNELL The Poetics of Fraud: Jean de Meun, Dante and Chaucer 261 NICOLAS JACOBS Criseyde’s Last Word 279 Notes on Contributors 295 Index 299

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