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Chaucer, an Introduction

Geoffrey Chaucer(c. 1343-Died 1400), best known for his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales, was an English poet who played an influential part in the history of the language. Chaucer, born the son of a bourgeois London wine merchant, may not have shared the same lot of an ordinary commoner, but, by the same token, he was not a part of the powered establishment. In his youth, Chaucer managed to procure a position as a page to a relative of then-King Richard II. Chaucer's position as a non-noble insider afforded him a unique opportunity to serve as a voice for the common man in the King's court. As a courtier, Chaucer would serve as an adviser and diplomat. He often wrote poems in favor of King Richard II, who had many political enemies in the court. Many of Chaucer's poems were intended not only to charm the reader with their structure and wit, but to serve as tributes to the king, advice to the nobility,and arguments against the anti-Richardian forces in the court.

About the project

This project is currently the result of the combined efforts of eighteen individuals, primarily consisting of the students of Georgia Tech's LCC 3226-B class. The class had previously compiled a printed manuscript that consisted of a compilation of many of Chaucer's shorter poems, alongside analyses of these poems, created by the class. This manuscript argued that the context of a work is inextricably bound to its content,and that Chaucer's writings were both Humanist and nationalist in nature.

When the class was initially tasked with transferring the knowledge stored within the printed manuscript into an online form, there was a brief period of debate over the specific form the online manuscript should take. The class eventually settled on constructing a Wiki, believing that the concept of a Wiki is in the general spirit of Chaucer himself. Chaucer was a man who valued the power of the individual and scoffed at the faith that the establishment placed in itself. Wikis, in much the same way, operate under the theory that the masses can gather together to produce something of merit.

Texts attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer

The following list of texts by or attributed to Chaucer is derived from the list provided in the Wikipedia article, "Geoffrey Chaucer."

Major Works

  • Translation of Roman de la Rose, possibly extant as The Romaunt of the Rose
  • The Book of the Duchess
  • The House of Fame
  • Anelida and Arcite
  • Parlement of Foules
  • Translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy as Boece
  • Troilus and Criseyde
  • The Legend of Good Women
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • Treatise on the Astrolabe

Short Poems

  • An ABC
  • The Complaint unto Pity
  • The Complaint of Venus
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton

Poems of dubious authorship

  • Against Women Unconstant

The Equatorie of the Planets

A rough translation of a Latin work derived from an Arab work of the same title. It is a description of the construction and use of a planetary equatorium, which was used in calculating planetary orbits and positions (at the time it was believed the sun orbited the Earth). The similar Treatise on the Astrolabe, not usually doubted as Chaucer's work, in addition to Chaucer's name as a gloss to the manuscript are the main pieces of evidence for the ascription to Chaucer. However, the evidence Chaucer wrote such a work is questionable, and as such is not included in The Riverside Chaucer. If Chaucer did not compose this work, it was probably written by a contemporary.

Presumably Lost Works

  • Of the Wreched Engendrynge of Mankynde, possible translation of Innocent III's De miseria conditionis humanae
  • Origenes upon the Maudeleyne
  • The Book of the Leoun – The Book of the Leon is mentioned in Chaucer's retraction. It is likely he wrote such a work; one suggestion is that the work was such a bad piece of writing it was lost, but if that had been the case, Chaucer would not have mentioned it. A likely source dictates it was probably a 'redaction of Guillaume de Machaut's 'Dit dou lyon,' a story about courtly love, a subject about which Chaucer frequently wrote.

Spurious Works

  • The Pilgrim's Tale – written in the sixteenth century with many Chaucerian allusions
  • The Plowman's Tale or The Complaint of the Ploughman – a Lollard satire later appropriated as a Protestant text
  • Pierce the Ploughman's Crede – a Lollard satire later appropriated by Protestants
  • The Ploughman's Tale – its body is largely a version of Thomas Hoccleve's "Item de Beata Virgine"
  • "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" – Richard Roos's translation of a poem of the same name by Alain Chartier
  • The Testament of Love – actually by Thomas Usk
  • Jack Upland – a Lollard satire
  • The Floure and the Leafe – a 15th century allegory
  • Derived works
  • God Spede the Plough – Borrows twelve stanzas of Chaucer's Monk's Tale
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