CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL CONDITIONS                       

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

 

54. AERS, DAVID. Chaucer, Langland, and the Creative Imagination. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980, 248 pp.

Describes the ideological plurality of the late fourteenth century and demonstrates Chaucer's sensitivity to the tension between human individuality and social traditions. Through the Wife of Bath and Pardoner, Chaucer presents authority in the mouths of very human speakers, disclosing the limitations of authority. Through Criseyde, Chaucer subverts the received idea of woman. The Marriage Group examines marital ideologies and leaves them unresolved. Through Knight's Tale, Chaucer exposes the weakness of martial order by having Theseus employ reified abstractions (order, necessity, love) in ways that encourage "critical discrimination" of the value of such abstractions.

55. BENNETT, H.S. Chaucer and the Fifteenth Century. Oxford History of English Literature, no. 2, part 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1947. Reprint. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976, 326 pp.

Introduces in helpful, general terms the literary and social milieu of Chaucer's age, setting a biographical reading of his poetry against a discussion of city, court and religious life, and using the poet's works to illuminate details of this society. Examines Chaucer's contributions to the development of English poetic diction and imagery, prosody, and verse forms, showing how Chaucer adumbrates fifteenth-century literature, discussed here as emulation of his genius. Includes a valuable essay on "The Author and His Public" in English medieval tradition, summaries of the verse and prose of the fifteenth century, chronological tables, and a dated but useful bibliography of the literature and its context.

56. BENNETT, J.A.W. Chaucer at Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974, 131 pp.

From university and shire records, documents the historical accuracy of the local color in Miller's Tale and Reeve's Tale. Substantiates Chaucer's familiarity with Oxford, Cambridge, and their locales (but does not argue for Chaucer's attendence at either university), indicating that Chaucer's poetic technique was affected by the life around him as well as the conventions of the fabliau. Also examines the library records of Merton College, Oxford, to clarify what resources were available in Chaucer's day, especially those which relate to Treatise on the Astrolabe and Equatorie of the Planets.

57. BOWDEN, MURIAL. A Reader's Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1964, 220 pp.

Surveys in introductory fashion the part that "environment played in Chaucer's poetry" and shows how fourteenth-century life and thought infuse it. Short, discursive essays identify Chaucer's use of contemporary science, philosophy and religion, chivalry, literature, and society in Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. His manipulation of the conventions of dream vision highlight discussions of Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls.

58. COULTON, G.G. Chaucer and his England. 8th ed. London: Methuen & Co., 1963, 300 pp.

Originally published in 1908, a classic, impressionistic description of Chaucer's life, his works, and most importantly, the social history of his age. Topical rather than chronlogical arrangement and quotation of contemporary sources provide a great deal of atmosphere and information, although some of the material is ethnocentric or outdated. Such topics as marriage, the poor, law, revelry, and attitudes towards the clergy enliven Chaucer's culture and works, helping to mediate between his time and ours.

59. DuBOULAY, F.R.H. "The Historical Chaucer." In Geoffrey Chaucer. Edited by Derek Brewer. Writers and their Background. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1974. Reprint. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976, pp. 33-57.

Eloquently surveys the important social conditions and public affairs of fourteenth-century England, noting where they touch Chaucer's poetry and how they relate to his life.

60. GALWAY, MARGARET. "The Troilus Frontispiece." Modern Language Review 44 (1949):161-77.

Analyzes the portraits, details, and historical backgrounds of the depiction of Chaucer reading to the royal audience in MS. 61, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, arguing that the manuscript illustration celebrates the life and accomplishments of Joan, mother of Richard II, in particular her patronage of Chaucer.

61. HUSSEY, MAURICE. "Chaucer's England." In An Introduction to Chaucer. By Maurice Hussey, A.C. Spearing, and James Winny. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965, pp. 28-55.

Introduces the political and social backgrounds to Chaucer's life and poetry, clarifying the relations among economics, demographics, the plague, the Peasant's Revolt, and shifts of political power. Chaucer's pilgrims reflect contemporary society, but Chaucer does not depict the major events of his day.

62. HUSSEY, MAURICE. Chaucer's World: A Pictorial Companion. London: Cambridge University Press, 1967, 172 pp.

A black-and-white pictorial index to Chaucer's England, arranged by topics associated with the Canterbury pilgrims, and combining medieval maps, art, architecture, and manuscript illuminations. Explanatory comments accompany the depictions of intellectual, religious, domestic, and court life, reflecting Chaucer's breadth and poetic range.

63. RICKERT, EDITH, compiler. Chaucer's World. Edited by Clair C. Olson and Martin M. Crow. New York: Columbia University Press, 1948, 477 pp.

Fourteenth-century social records--translated and modernized--arranged under ten subject categories: London Life, The Home, Training and Education, Careers, Entertainment, Travel, War, The Rich and the Poor, Religion, Death and Burial. Further sub-dividing, judicious selection, and occasional notes clarify the relation between Chaucer's social and political life and this background.

See also entries 4, 5, 11, 65. For court life: 93, 185, 357-58, 366, 370, 527, 553, 593, 623, 860; art and culture: 231, 287; religious life: 205, 207, 235, 456, 464, 469, 490, 578, 602, 609-10, 760; city life: 257, 508, 513, 568; class distinctions and the lower classes: 248, 250, 334, 338-39, 350-51, 382, 392, 431, 443, 549-50, 552.

Table of Contents

Previous Section: Dictionaries

Next Section: Biography