Read Chaucer and His Poetry by George Lyman Kittredge Online

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1927. Lectures delivered in 1914 on the Percy Turnbull Memorial Foundation in the Johns Hopkins University by Kittredge Gurney Professor of English Literature in Harvard University. Contents: The Man and His Times; The Book of the Duchess; The House of Fame; Troilus; The Canterbury Tales-I; and The Canterbury Tales-II. See other titles by this author available from Kessing1927. Lectures delivered in 1914 on the Percy Turnbull Memorial Foundation in the Johns Hopkins University by Kittredge Gurney Professor of English Literature in Harvard University. Contents: The Man and His Times; The Book of the Duchess; The House of Fame; Troilus; The Canterbury Tales-I; and The Canterbury Tales-II. See other titles by this author available from Kessinger Publishing....

Title : Chaucer and His Poetry
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ISBN : 9780674112100
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 270 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Chaucer and His Poetry Reviews

  • Alan
    2018-11-15 14:01

    Chaucer, like Shakespeare, a poet of character: he vitalized Medieval "types" drawn from Aristotle's De Anima and others. Nowhere is the interplay of character more remarkable than between the Friar and Summoner, whom I always aloudread to my sophomore survey classes because the two were business competitors (raking the countryside for sinners--former for confessions, latter for church court fines and arrests) [p29, 192 in 1925 edition]. His bio helps explain his "periods": French (see Muscatine's book), Italian, and English life and character. There's also a period between French and Italian, after Chaucer's Italian journey of three months (1373). Almost all Chaucer's references to himself are ironical*--an outsider to love, as a pilgrim a little pot-bellied man on a horse. Chaucer gives himself the worst of the tales, Sir Thopas, a folk story to which the Host shouts, "Thy drasty riming is not worth a turd!" Further, the Host accuses Chaucer of precursing rap, "This maye well be rime doggerel." Maybe Chaucer's folk story invented rap 600 years earlier. As an outsider, Chaucer is a "servus servorum" of the god. He invents nothing (as opposed to all modern "creative" poets): "all his work is that of a faithful copyist"(31). The Geoff apologizes, among other things in his Prolog, for not showing due deference to social rank--but the Knight begins, chosen by Lot, "which proves more deferential to rank and station than the poet himself"(14). Another Chaucerian apology, for lack of method, comes from the Canon's Yoeman, when he expounds the mysteries of alchemy. "His whole lecture is made riotously comic by haphazard enumeration. Ingredients, utensils, processes, and miscellaneous terms are jumbled together in a mad and merry dance of technicalities: verdigris, borax…bull's gall, arsenic"(15). The passage is true Aristophanic 'paigos', unpacking his heart with words. "The terms are not half understood by him, though he feels an ignorant man's pride in displaying so prodigious a vocabulary." Kittredge observes that we're fortunate that Chaucer was born well enough not to become a parson, to escape hunger, though I personally add that most of my favorite 17C English poets were parsons--Herrick, Herbert and of course Donne (not a mere parson, but…). Writing in early 20th C, Kittredge observes the main difference between Chaucer's times and ours, specialization. (As most fine literary observations, K's here may be MORE true a century later.) "Our tendency is to exhaust one subject, if we can, and ignore the rest; theirs was to aspire to an encyclopaedic grasp of the universe"(7). As I write on lit and science, Chaucer's sciences, some on medicine, much on dreams, their physiological etiology. Of course, the Middle Ages called "waking dreams" close to daily life the FURTHEST from "Reality" (Platonist/Christian). Reality for them would be the tunnel and afterlife dreams. The Legend of Good Women is partly from Ovid's Heroides, partly the (Christian) Legenda Aurea. Kittredge's conclusion on the House of Fame shows what a classroom presence he was: "I have a pretty theory [about how HF should end] which,however, I will not disclose, because I do not quite believe it myself. Besides, I like to imitate Chaucer by stopping abruptly--checked, as perhaps he was, by the striking of the clock"(107, 1925). May I add that two of my teachers were Kittredge's students: probably the best classroom performer in my experience, my Amherst Shakespeare teacher T Baird; and a learned though poor classroom host and Anglo-Saxon specialist--rumored to have received a "C" from Kittredge, so not shy about giving low grades to his own. *PS ironic downplay was featured prior to the Romantic revolution: Erasmus in his Colloquys has a young prostitute say of himself, "Oh! I've heard he's an arch-heretic.. My client, a priest, told me so." Shakespeare apologizes with the female Epilog for one of his best plays, As You Like It: "What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play!" The Romantic revolution, ca 1800, changed all this so now Authors are stuck up (in two senses) and some even believe it of themselves, like Norman Mailer and various American Poets Non-laureate (bec not appointed for life).