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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $18.95

Hardback 192 pp.
15 b/w images, 130 mm x 178 mm



Publication date:
August 2017

Imprint: OUP UK

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Geoffrey Chaucer

A New Introduction

David Wallace

Originally writing over 600 years ago, Geoffrey Chaucer is today enjoying a global renaissance. Why do poets, translators, and audiences from so many cultures, from the mountains of Iran to the islands of Japan, find Chaucer so inspiring? In part this is down to the character and sheer inventiveness of Chaucer's work.

At the time Chaucer's writings were not just literary adventures, but also a means of convincing the world that poetry and science, tragedy and astrology, could all be explored through the English language. French was still England's aristocratic language of choice when Chaucer was born; Latin was used for university education, theological discussion, and for burying the dead. Could a hybrid tongue such as English ever generate great writing to compare with French and Italian? Chaucer, miraculously, believed that it could, through gradual expansion of expressiveness and scientific precision. He was never paid to do this; he was valued, rather, as a capable civil servant, regulating the export of wool and the building of seating for royal tournaments.

Such experiences, however, fed his writing, achieving a range of social registers, from noble tragedy to barnyard farce, unrivalled for centuries. His tale-telling geography is vast, his fascination with varieties of religious belief endless, and his desire to voice female experience especially remarkable. Many Chaucerian poets and performers, today, are women. In this book David Wallace introduces the life, performance, and poetry of Chaucer, and analyses his astonishing and enduring appeal.

Readership : General audience.

1. Beginnings
2. Schoolrooms, science, female intuition
3. A life in poetry
4. Poetry at last: Troilus and Criseyde
5. Organizing, disorganizing: The Canterbury Tales
6. Something to believe in
7. Afterlife, drama, futures
Further Reading

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

David Wallace studied at York and Cambridge. Currently Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, he has held visiting positions at Jerusalem, Melbourne, London, and Princeton. He has served as President of the New Chaucer Society, is currently Second Vice President of the Medieval Academy of America, and has made a series of documentaries for BBC Radio 3. He most recently published Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418 (2016) and Strong Women (2012), both with OUP.

Homer - Barbara Graziosi
How English Became English - Simon Horobin
William Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction - Stanley Wells
Dante - Peter Hainsworth and David Robey

Special Features

  • Offers an engaging introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer's works, informed by his own life and the times he was writing in.
  • Analyses the lasting appeal of Chaucer's works, and considers their adaptations and performances through the centuries since they were written.
  • Draws out some of the most innovative features of Chaucer's work, such as his blend of genres and strong female voices, and discusses why these made his writing so unique.
  • Considers Chaucer as a playwright, writer, and poet, and discusses these seperate features of his work.