The Life and Writings of Geoffrey Chaucer : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses, Seth Lerer
  • Narrated by Professor Seth Lerer
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 6 hrs and 14 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of our grandest and most enduring poets; an architect of our vocabulary and our literary style. By examining the English writer's texts, from his short love lyrics to the copious profusion of character and incident that is The Canterbury Tales, these 12 lectures will prepare you for the challenges of Chaucer's oeuvre, and will provide an understanding of what makes him the true "father" of English poetry. With Professor Lerer as your expert guide, you'll plumb the richness and depth of Chaucer's poetry and explore his life, the range of his work, and his impact on English language and literature. You'll examine Chaucer in virtually all the varieties of literature available to him: classical epic, domestic farce, ribald comedy, saint's life, beast fable, romance adventure, personal lyric, devotional prayer, and religious prose. You'll learn how Chaucer uses relationships between men and women, humans and God, social "insiders" and "outsiders," and high and low desires to explore our "ticklish" world, and the way life takes shape from literary forms-be they marriage vows, the verses of Scripture, or stories told by plain folk. You'll also meet some of the most vibrant characters in all of literature, including: the bawdy Wife of Bath, the manipulative Pandarus (whose very name gave rise to the term "pandering"), the upright Knight, and the ambiguous Pardoner.
Professor Lerer leads you deeply into the texts, so that you learn about their sources and syntax, and the rich repertoire of poetic techniques they display. And while he makes it clear that these texts remain eminently worth reading today, he also does full justice to their medieval context.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not much about the life of Chaucer

When I was in school, college and high school I found Chaucer jarring. Older I thought, perhaps I missed something, After listening to this, I feel the same way. I wanted context as something is clearly lost in the translation of the first written English, but I didn't get it. Even though there is much documented for Chaucer, it wasn't in this work, so I was disappointed. Unlike Shakespeare, no one ever said that Chaucer didn't write the Canterbury Tales. Look elsewhere for something more definitive, unusual for these courses.
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- Mary Elizabeth Reynolds "author of Lowcountry Legend's series"

A complete waste of time

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I can't think of a better target group than myself for this kind of course, since I desperately wanted an overview of Chaucer's life and writings. There is, however, no indication that the course supervisor has any clear idea of how to put things in context. The focus is always to narrow, so this feels like a series of footnotes on obscure details instead of a general overview.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Rethought the whole thing from scratch, presented things differently - found someone else to do it.

How could the performance have been better?

The course supervisor spends most of his time on the microphone citing passages from Chaucer, verbatim and directly in Middle English in a funny Jim Carrey-esque voice. Then he reads the same passages again in Modern English, commenting freely and spontaneously on what he has just said. Usually, the meaning is clear already so the commenting is superfluous. This is an extreme case of bad time management.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?


Any additional comments?

I'd love to get another course on Chaucer and I will consider buying it if it becomes available.

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- Hjalti

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses