Bard of the Middle Ages - The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

  • by Michael Drout
  • Narrated by Michael Drout
  • 8 hrs and 9 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Had Geoffrey Chaucer not written, or not written so well, the last 600 years of English literature would have been decidedly different. His creative style and use of language served as one of the primary foundations on which later writers built. Through his writing, Chaucer's wit, charm, and eloquence give us a deeper understanding of not only the time in which he lived, but of how human emotion, frailty, and fortitude are the base elements of human existence.Despite social upheaval and the changing fortunes of his patrons and peers, Chaucer remained a favored subject during three distinct and contrasting reigns. His experiences provided Chaucer an appreciation for his good (and bad) fortune - and that of others - made evident in his writing.Chaucer's works are today widely studied and serve as models for current literature around the world. Chaucer holds a place of esteem as the earliest and one of the foremost writers in the English language.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I learned more about history than language.

Professor Drout is as entertaining in this course as ever, though I had wished to catch up on my middle english. However, the course was not about middle English, I am nonetheless happy about purchase.
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- Chi-Hung

Good overview but a missed opportunity

Any additional comments?

I took a Chaucer course in grad school and listened to Dr. Drout's survey as a way of refreshing my memory in anticipation of teaching Chaucer this fall to my 10th grade English class.

Pros:

1. Dr. Drout is an engaging communicator. His enjoyment of and expertise in Chaucer is self-evident. His presentation is much better in this course than in the Anglo-Saxon course. For example, Dr. Drout minimizes the amount of readings in the original language and strikes a nice balance between original and translation.

2. He keeps the summaries relatively brief, and, for the Canterbury Tales, offers suggestions for how the various tales speak to each other. Even though the course is full of spoilers for a new reader, it does not diminish the pleasure of reading Chaucer's works in their entirety.

3. The biographical sketch of Chaucer and argument for how his literary skills increase throughout his writing career is interesting4. Though I had a different goal in mind, I think this course would be somewhat useful as an introduction to a new reader of Chaucer.

Cons

Dr. Drout acknowledges late in the course that modern critical theories which center on "power" (feminism: power of men over women, marxism: power of bourgeoisie over proletariat, race-based theories: power of whites over minorites, and environmentalism: power of humans -- especially white males -- over the environment) have pretty much exhausted their ability to provide compelling insights into literature. I agree with him completely, though I think they ran out of creative steam almost as soon as they began.

Sadly, Dr. Drout makes extensive use of feminist interpretation in this course. It brought back unhappy memories of the feminist/marxist indoctrination camp I found myself in during grad school. The insights of feminist interpretation for Chaucer could have been acknowledged and shared in a few sentences. There are far more interesting ways to read Chaucer and it was a big disappointment that Dr. Drout chose to use this approach so frequently.

It is not the predictable and trite interpretations of feminists (nor the sexual-psychological-social interpretations of Foucault) that have given Chaucer his centuries long status as one of our greatest authors. Dr. Drout himself gives a rather eloquent tribute to Chaucer's genius at the end of the course, and what makes Chaucer great has nothing to do with the stale and condescending conclusions of political activists who use literary studies as a platform to convert students to their cause. There is a huge difference between reading Chaucer (or any other author) and using Chaucer.

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- Mountain K9iner

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-27-2008
  • Publisher: Recorded Books