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Congenial Souls

Congenial Souls: Reading Chaucer from Medieval to Postmodern

Stephanie Trigg
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Congenial Souls
    Book Description:

    Congenial Souls surveys the critical literature from the late Middle Ages to the contemporary period to show how editors and critics constructed various voices as a response -- even a supplement -- to Chaucer's work. Concentrating on turning points in the history of this discourse and in the creation of a special Chaucerian community, Trigg arrives at the fraught notion of a critical community in our day. What, she asks, do feminist studies or cultural studies portend for such an author-based literary communion? And if Chaucer is the original "dead white male" author, what will happen to Chaucer studies and medieval studies in the new millennium? The moment is propitious, Trigg suggests, for Chaucerians to investigate their own critical history and its inherent contradictions. Richly informed, her work establishes a strong basis for such an examination.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5298-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: The Congenial Souls Of Chaucer And His Readers
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    The cover of the Riverside paperback edition of Chaucer’s works features a famous fifteenth-century image of pilgrims on horseback. The group rides out beyond the city walls; the bright reds and blues of their clothes and the elaborate detail of their horses’ trappings gleam against the background of soft green grass. The top third of the picture is divided into three receding and overlapping planes: a building in warm ochre, then the walls of the cathedral town in the soft gray of distance, and finally, a range of blue hills and smaller villages against a horizon breaking into dawn. Our...

  6. 1 Speaking for Chaucer: Canon and Community
    (pp. 1-39)

    Where does Chaucer begin and end? In one sense, the difference between medieval poet and modern literary critic is stable and absolute: there is no danger of our mistaking one for the other, no likelihood that on the basis of my absurd opening, even without its prosaic anachronisms, I’d be suspected of having discovered and translated a new, complete text of Chaucer’sCanterbury Tales,in which all the pilgrims tell four stories, as the Host says they must. We habitually regard theTalesas unfinished, but we also regard the body of Chaucerian works, the known textual corpus, as finite...

  7. 2 Signing Geoffrey Chaucer: Models of Authorship
    (pp. 40-73)

    When the Tapycer had finished his tale, the Haberdasher congratulated him on a worthy effort, and turning to the Host, asked who might be able to better such a wonderful story. Were not the guildsmen acquitting themselves excellently in the storytelling competition? The Host cast his eye over the company, and turned to the Pardoner. “Now, my friend, let us put aside our differences once more. For your fourth and final attempt, tell us something wonderful.” “Certainly,” replied the Pardoner. “I’ll top you all with the tale of a woman who, like myself in a way, made her living by...

  8. 3 Writing Chaucer: The Fifteenth Century
    (pp. 74-108)

    There is no doubt that Chaucer’s name signifies a powerful cultural effect in the early fifteenth century. He is early named as father or master, inspiring a range of poetic subjectivities among his followers and imitators. It is only later, and more gradually, that his name is countersigned in a way that constitutes “Chaucer” as the object of critical attention, as well as a model for poetic imitation. Yet both processes are inextricably tied to the manner in which his poetic texts acquire closure.

    In the most sustained discussion of Chaucer’s fifteenth-century legacy, Seth Lerer articulates a persistent pattern by...

  9. 4 Loving Chaucer in the Privacy of Print: The Sixteenth Century
    (pp. 109-143)

    Lydgate’s prologue to theSiege of Thebescarefully defines its own poetic trajectory from the margins of Chaucer’s text into its own epic narrative. Of course, the idea of following in Chaucer’s poetic footsteps does not depend on such physical proximity to Chaucer’s texts or the idea of supplementing his works so literally. However, the twinned aspects of theTales’incompleteness and the comic conversational style of the framing pilgrimage narrative seem to have facilitated the writing of more “Chaucer,” from the rudimentary attempts to finishThe Cook’sTale to added links and tales such asGamelynandThe Plowman’s...

  10. 5 Translating Chaucer for Modernity: John Dryden
    (pp. 144-156)

    Reading the sixteenth-century editions of Chaucer produces an uncanny sense of familiarity and unfamiliarity. In the format andordinatioof these books, their structure of introduction, text, commentary, and glossary, we recognize the disposition and some of the content of modern editorial and critical material around the literary text. And yet current editorial and critical practice insists on a radical disjunction with the discourses represented in these old editions: according to the opposition I examined in chapter i, they belong more to “reception” than to “criticism.” Their voices, their implied audiences, and their presuppositions and assumptions bear little or no...

  11. 6 Reading Chaucer outside the Acadaemy: Furnivall Woolf, and Chesterton
    (pp. 157-194)

    The modern recognition of Dryden’s preface as an inaugural document for Chaucer criticism depends on a number of factors in almost irresistible combination. Dryden’s appreciation of Chaucer’s qualities as a comic realist is given critical ballast by his own more serious act of installing Chaucer into a classical and European literary pantheon. Moreover, his ready identification with Chaucer along the individual trajectory of spiritualized poetic affinity intersects satisfyingly with the more convivial, inclusive model of the community of pilgrims. It has become a most enabling combination for modern Chaucer studies, sustained by Dryden’s perceived influence on the development of literary...

  12. 7 Reforming the Chaucerian Community: The Late Twentieth Century
    (pp. 195-238)

    Throughout the twentieth century, Chaucer studies maintained their distinctive position on the cusp of medieval and literary studies within the institutions of higher learning. It has been a situation of considerable strength. As a canonical writer, Chaucer still appears regularly, if not universally, in the syllabus of tertiary, and sometimes secondary education, where his poetry is presented as an important foundational moment in English literary modernity. To the syllabus of medieval literature, on the other hand, Chaucer adds glamour and the symbolic capital associated with the canon of high culture to courses in medieval studies. With a foot in both...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 239-272)
  14. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-284)