You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bard of the Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

Bard of the Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is a Modern Scholar lecture course presented by Professor Michael D.C. Drout. Professor Drout starts with the background of Chaucer and literature in his time. Chaucer was writing in a time of change in literature when there weren't a lot of written works in Middle English. Middle English was just coming into use as a language for literature over Latin or French.

Chaucer's early works get a good overview. The Parliament of Fowls sounds the most interesting: it is a story about birds that come together to find mates but have to wait on the highest ranking female bird to make a choice. She is presented with three males who offer different ideas on the meaning of love. This sounds like an interesting treatise on love.

Professor Drout talks for two lectures about Troilus and Criseyde. It is an epic written in rime royale, using events from ancient Troy. It is essentially a medieval romance where Troilus falls in love and pursues Criseyde, who must be convinced to see him by her uncle Pandarus. The story ends tragically when Criseyde abandons Troilus for another man, though she has good reason. This work displays the Drout calls the malady of love, the medieval beliefs that being in love is a physical ailment. Troilus is always going around saying he is going to die if his love is not returned.

The last half of the lecture is on The Canterbury Tales. It is a series of stories in a narrative framework where pilgrims are traveling and telling tales. The first few tales work around the idea of marriage and relationships. One set of tales is told by men and women of the church. Many stories are responses to other ones, and the pilgrims start a sort of competition. The tales range from eloquent to raunchy.

Professor Drout does a good job describing the works. I really appreciate his comments on Middle English and his reading some parts of the works as they were written. He illustrates how the tales interact with each other and the narrative framework itself. I enjoyed the course and I hope to actually read some Chaucer soon. A-


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