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The Social Value of Medieval Studies

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 who had suffered significant instability …

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Remembering Derek Pearsall

Derek Pearsall (1931-2021) was Trustee of the New Chaucer Society 1982-6 and President 1988-90. We include here four appreciations of Derek from members of the Society.

The Black Ellesmere Shipman

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.

Mandeville and Materiality in the Age of the Pandemic

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 relation to the ‘Black Death’ …

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Stones Left Unturned (Psst! More New Chaucer Life Records)

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 been shaped by the formative …

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White Attunement

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 strategies of recognition. John Hurt …

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The Chaucer Society, Victorian Medievalism, and the Nation-State: Englishness and Empire

My colleague Dr R. D. Perry, the NCS Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-18) at Saint Louis University, is hosting a series of podcasts on the state of the field in Chaucerian studies. The next podcast interview, with Sylvia Tomasch and me, is on the history of the New Chaucer Society and its previous avatar, the Chaucer Society. …

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An Interim Report on the Standard Edition(s) of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

This is a strange moment for scholars and teachers of Chaucer in North America. There is no good option for an up-to-date, standard, scholarly edition of Chaucer’s complete works. The Riverside Chaucer (gen. ed. Larry Benson, 3rd edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1986), the edition that has long been considered the standard – for some scholars, the “gold standard,” …

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