The opening session of the recent online Expo of the New Chaucer Society was entitled “Medieval Scholarship in Precarious Times.” Given the context of the Covid pandemic, one could not find a more appropriate topic to begin this convocation. The presenters were made up primarily of new medieval literature professors
Chaucer describes the Shipman in the General Prologue The Canterbury Tales as possibly from Dartmouth in Devon, as armed with a dagger, as lacking a “nice” conscience, and as experienced in the weathers, harbors, and tides from Sweden to Spain. He also describes him as brown from the sun, “The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun” (CT, I, 394). The Ellesmere portraitist follows Chaucer in depicting the dagger, which hangs from a strap about his neck so that it is directly under his arm and easy to grab (Figure 1). He also depicts the Shipman as dark or black. Rather than the fair or brown hair that the other pilgrims have, he gives the Shipman tightly curled black hair and a forked curly black beard.
As the world continues to reel from the pandemic, like many of us, I am missing the opportunities that we would normally enjoy to meet and discuss our scholarship face-to-face, not least at this month’s understandably postponed NCS Congress. Many people have been inspired to consider the current pandemic in
It has become increasingly clear to me that in recent years the gap between how I teach literature in the classroom and how I approach it in my own research had widened to the extent that I often assumed contradictory positions in my almost binary academic roles. My teaching has
Scholarship is the craft of recognition, the art of attunement. Recognition, Rita Felski argues, is one of the uses of literature; self-recognition in reading is marked by a sudden epiphany of aesthetic and cognitive alignment. We are practitioners of attunement, traffickers in recognition. Even techniques of “defamiliarization” or “destabilization” are