GENERAL TREATMENTS                        

[Cross-references included at the bottom of the page]

 

1. COGHILL, NEVILL. The Poet Chaucer. 2d ed. Oxford Paperback Series, no. 23. Oxford University Press, 1967, 156 pp.

Traces the chronological growth of Chaucer's poetry and comic genius, discussing how his life affected his works, and at much greater length, his improving technique from poem to poem. Chaucer investigated the closed form of dream allegory in Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls, although each is progressively less conventional. In Troilus and Criseyde he creates a tragedy of character, a new literary form. When reprimanded by the Queen for his characterization of Criseyde, he ironically returns to dream vision in Legend of Good Women, meanwhile discovering the "new shape of a poem" that was to blossom in the crowning achievemenmt of Canterbury Tales. The General Prologue and tales reflect most clearly the wide embrace of Chaucer's comic, Christian view.

2. CORSA, HELEN STORM. Chaucer: Poet of Mirth and Morality. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964, 247 pp.

Develops the argument that Chaucer's "mirth reveals his moral premises." Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls are "preludes" to Chaucer's mature comic style, "intimations of the mixture of philosophical order and human diversity that typify Troilus and Criseyde and Canterbury Tales. Troilus is a realization of a high order that renders comic its hero's tragedy. The tales of Canterbury demonstrate human variety within overarching justice: the Host's game of mirth is under constant threat of descending to mere contentiousness, but such figures as the Knight, Franklin and Parson assert Providential order in the face of such struggle.

3. GARDNER, JOHN CHAMPLIN. The Poetry of Chaucer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1977, 408 pp.

Discusses Chaucer's corpus by isolating two major poles: Neoplatonic Christianity and nominalistic uncertainty. Early experimentation with rhetoric and ornament typify Book of the Duchess, the lyrics, and with increasing structural sophistication, Parliament of Fowls. Troilus and Criseyde offers a tragic clash between the two poles; House of Fame (here thought to be composed about the time of Troilus) contrasts the two subordinate themes of authority and experience; Legend of Good Women comically privileges Neoplatonic love. Canterbury Tales embraces both poles, encompassing Christian unity and philosophical diversity, authority and experience, medieval representationalism and modern realism.

4. HALLIDAY, F.E. Chaucer and His World. London: Thames & Hudson, 1968, 144 pp.

A discursive, generously illustrated introduction to Chaucer, his literature, and the social conditions and events of his age, interspersed with quotation from his poetry. Chronologically arranged, critical description of the poetry and biographical information clarify the interrelationships between Chaucer's art and times. Includes some two hundred black and white photographs of architecture, statuary, manuscript illumination, and other medieval materials.

5. HOWARD, EDWIN J. Geoffrey Chaucer. Twayne English Authors Series, no. 1. New York: Twayne, 1964, 219 pp.

An informative introduction to Chaucer's biography and cultural context, and an analytic summary of his works. Except for certain groups of lyrics (complaints, ballads, envoys), each work is described individually, beginning with a plot summary and moving to commentary on chronology, versification, theme and characterization. Devotes most attention to Canterbury Tales, considering it fragment by fragment in the Ellesmere order, and concludes with an historical survey of Chaucer's poetic reputation.

6. HUSSEY, S.S. Chaucer: An Introduction. 2d ed. London: Methuen, 1981, 245 pp.

Surveys Chaucer's biography and poetry, combining plot summary with traditional critical concerns. Reads Chaucer's dream visions against the backdrop of Roman de la rose and courtly love. Assesses the characters and Boethian philosophy of Troilus and Criseyde in contrast to Boccaccio's Filostrato, reading Troilus as a high tragedy which sophisticates the techniques and concerns of the dream visions. Defines the literary genres (romance, fabliau, saint's life, didactic forms) collected in Canterbury Tales, discussing representative tales and describing the style and function of General Prologue. Comparison with John Gower, William Langland and the Pearl poet clarify the nature of Chaucer's narrative voice, his realism, and his sensitive portrayals of love.

7. KANE, GEORGE. Chaucer. Past Masters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984, 122 pp.

A compact assessment of Chaucer, his poetry, and his intellectual achievement, describing the development of his idea of poetry and the subsequent growth of his art. Biographical detail, comparison to Continental contemporaries, and summary of intellectual tradition serve as background for a chronological survey of his poetry, from his novel use of French convention and English language in Book of the Duchess, to his exploration of poetic identity in House of Fame, to his conflation of love, poetry and philosophy in Parliament of Fowls. The greatness of Troilus and Criseyde lies in its investigation of the relation between sexuality and personality and its generalized representation of the "human predicament." Canterbury Tales reflects contemporary issues and thought, and the human impulses of sexuality and acquisitiveness. These motifs compose a tragicomedy of human ideals and the failure to achieve them.

8. KEAN, P.M. Chaucer and the Making of English Poetry. 2 vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972, 482 pp. One vol. abridged ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, 327 pp.

Evaluates Chaucer's status as the father of English poetry, reading his works for their relation to literary tradition, emphasizing his appropriation of English and Continental literature, and identifying his self-consciousness about his poetry and its place in tradition. In Book of the Duchess and the short poems, he developed an "urbane" style, dependent upon tradition, but freshly aware of audience. More rich philosophically and more conscious of their status as poetry, Parliament of Fowls and House of Fame explore, respectively, the contrasts of love and the relation of poetry to tradition. Troilus and Criseyde draws its audience into the experiences of love and of philosophy by capturing them in the "intrigue and cross purposes" of the characters. Canterbury Tales incorporates a huge array of sources, and reflects Chaucer's exploitation and manipulation of comedy, religion, rhetoric and narrative variety. Chaucer's various contributions were apparent to his fifiteenth-century followers, even though the metaphors of their criticism obscure this fact.

9. KITTREDGE, GEORGE LYMAN. Chaucer and His Poetry. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1915. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970, 266 pp.

An important work of interpretive criticism which has done much to influence twentieth-century understanding of Chaucer. The progress of Chaucer's career, the breadth of his appeal, and attention to irony and characterization typify the six included essays, notable for their insight, intellectual grace, and exposure of critical illusions. Chaucer was not naive, since a naive "Collector of Customs would be a paradoxical monster." Book of the Duchess benefits from Chaucer's naive pose and "is really like a dream." House of Fame surveys the "whole world of mortal endeavor," and Troilus and Criseyde is "the first novel, in the modern sense, that was ever written," presenting fully developed psychological characters. Canterbury Tales is a "human comedy" in which the tales are "long speeches" which dramatize the characters of the tellers. Such seminal observations have provoked positive and negative response from Chaucer critics for several generations.

10. LAWLOR, JOHN. Chaucer. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1968, 181 pp.

Assesses in Chaucer's narrative poetry the ongoing struggle between experience and authority, exploring the ways in which his narrative poses, his sense of literary tradition, and his sensitivity to his audience reflect his concern with both poetic freedom and the human freedom of his characters. In his early dream visions, Chaucer confronts the relations between bookish authority and dream experience. In Troilus and Criseyde, his transformations of Boccaccio's Filostrato emphasize the pathos of the characters' submission to convention and the narrator's submission to poetic tradition. Legend of Good Women defines the gap between poetic theory and practice, and Canterbury Tales explores the problem through various situations. Reads the Marriage Group as the culminating treatment of the theme.

11. LOOMIS, ROGER SHERMAN. A Mirror of Chaucer's World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965, n.p.

Collects some two hundred portraits of Chaucer and his contemporaries, photographs of places he frequented and common objects from his life, and manuscript illustrations of details or scenes in his writings. Arranged according to the pieces they illustrate, the pictures are accompanied by Chaucerian quotations and helpful bibliography.

12. LOUNSBURY, THOMAS R. Studies in Chaucer: His Life and Writings. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892. Reprint. 3 vols. New York: Russell & Russell, 1962, 1607 pp.

An early, scholarly compendium of Chaucer's biography, canon, and poetic achievement, valuable for its summary of previous scholarship and criticism, particularly the "legendary biography." Describes the difficulty of establishing Chaucer's canon, applying various tests of genuineness to eliminate several spurious works and Romaunt of the Rose. Examines Chaucer's learning and gauges his contributions to linguistic history. Studies his allusions, identifying his "errors" in using them, and assesses his vocabulary. Comments upon Chaucer's religious convictions, viewing him as an early Protestant, and explores his literary achievement by analyzing his self- consciousness, experimentation and originality.

See also entries 57, 58, 66, 201, 229.

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