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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


Acknowledgments This book takes its origin from the conference on Chaucer in Context held in Trinity College Dublin on 17 April 2010, organised by Professor Sarah Alyn Stacey, Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Trinity College and financially supported by the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (Medium Aevum). I take this opportunity to thank Professor Alyn Stacey and the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies for help and encouragement in bringing this book to completion. I also take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my students in the Department and School of English and in the Department of Medieval and Renaissance English in Trinity College Dublin over many years (and not least in 2009–2010 for making my final experience of teach- ing so happy and rewarding). I wish to express my gratitude (once again and once again as no mere formality) to Andrea Greengrass who compiled the Index and to Mary Critchley who prepared the book for publication. Their exemplary profes- sionalism has relieved me of the pressure that is usually to be experienced in the final stages of a work such as this.

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