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Michael Drout uses a literary critique of Geoffrey Chaucer's works as an excuse to talk about medieval life while also addressing the question of why Chaucer is rated so highly and what influences shaped his talent. As well as being a significant author, Chaucer had a dazzling rise under a sequence of Kings at a time of great turmoil in English history when it was difficult enough to make the transition from wine merchants' some to courtier and even harder to avoid assassination and torture as various factions rose and fell. Drout goes some way to explaining how Chaucer did it. He also brings the text to life by reading passages of Chaucer in middle English and contrasting them with passages of old English and modern version of the Canterbury Tales. I've always found it strangely fascinating to hear the unfamiliar tones of our own language as they were spoken by long dead ancestors.
Don't worry if you like history but aren't interested in literary criticism. Drout's incapable of being dull and effortlessly links the literature back to the experience of living a medieval life. Don't worry if you like history but feel this period to be pretty solidly covered in other publications. Drout has interesting things to say about the cultural life of the middle ages as well as the intricacies of Chaucer's progress through the hierarchy of the royal bureaucracy.
I've yet to listen to a dud from Prof Drout and this is another characteristically strong offering.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
A sweep through the life, times and works of Geoffrey Chaucer, setting his works in context and exploring some of the complex themes at work. What sets this series apart is that all of Chaucer's are discussed no only in relation to Chaucer but in relation to each other. A very useful guide, and a very engaging presenter.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Geoffrey Chaucer is a master of ambiguity. Michael Drout, in the Modern Scholar series, offers an informative and laudatory appreciation of Chaucer as the Bard of the Middle Ages. Drout notes that Chaucer’s view of life is best revealed in The Canterbury Tales.
Drout offers high praise for Chaucer, suggesting The Canterbury Tales seeds centuries of fictional narratives; in part because of Chaucer’s prescient understanding of human nature but also because of life’s ambiguous truths. Drout considers Chaucer equal to William Shakespeare, the greatest poet and playwright of all time.
Though Drout does not suggest Chaucer endorses cultural’ transgressions, it appears Chaucer is ambiguous about his character’s opinions. Drout suggests Chaucer may have been repentant in The Parson’s Tale (the last of The Canterbury Tales that endorses religion of Chaucer’s era) because he is nearing the end of his life. In any case, it is clear that Chaucer is ahead of his time; earned his place in West Minster Abbey (the first poet to be buried there), and deserves his reputation as the Father of English Literature.
Drout gives his audience an excellent summary of Chaucer’s contribution to literature in these lectures; however, Chaucer is best represented by his own writing. Every listener/reader reaches their own opinion after experiencing Chaucer’s work; that is what makes The Canterbury Tales a classic.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this review of Chaucer's works. The series reviewed
The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde, and, of course, The Canterbury Tales. Dr. Drout also reviews Chaucer's translation of The Consolation of Philosophy and The Romance of the Rose. It's too bad The Book of the Lion didn't survive. This series enlightened me about how revolutionary the Canterbury Tales were. The use of a frame narrative allowed Chaucer to cloak his opinions and it allowed Chaucer the freedom to get inside the minds of the many different personalities of his time period in the 14th Century. The lecture sheds light on the historical events influencing Chaucer's writing, such as his involvement and survival of a lineage of royalty and the fact that his writings were read at court. Dr. Drout is also an expert in Middle English which further sheds light on understanding Chaucer. Dr. Drout's inclusion of the different literary theories including the feminist movement was informative. If you think literature starts with Shakespeare, this is a must listen.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful