All the Chaucer!

Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste

Don’t worry, this won’t all be in middle English. I’m not sure if that makes me a crap medievalist or a sensible person for not inflicting the sweet octosyllabic couplets of Chaucer onto unsuspecting bystanders.

But today is a day of Chaucer! The opening line of his famous Canterbury Tales sets the tale in ‘that Aprill with his shoures soote’, and so medievalists, Chaucerians, and people trying to impress that cute student who reads middle English have jumped on social media and are trumpeting these lines in a manner that is doing more for the publicity of Geoffrey than his bloody retraction at the end of The Canterbury Tales.

I’ve also spent most of the day in the library reading Chaucer’s dream visions, so today has been literally wall-to-wall with Chaucer; I’ll read The House of Fame, then take a break and accidentally read The Knight’s Tale on Facebook, then back to some Book of the Duchess crit, then over to Twitter where my friend wrote this hilarious Marxist response to The Canterbury Tales.

It’s interesting how teachers, professors and general adulty authority figures have long told me to take a holistic approach to learning, to not just read a book by itself in working hours, but think about its ideas when I’m relaxing. And while this is certainly true, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly, I’ve never been thumped in the face with holistic reading and penetrative knowledge in quite this way before; I once read some stuff about a knight, now I’m suddenly in on all the Twitter jokes flying around.

Obviously, the goal of art is not to be so well-versed that one can decipher a particularly niche hashtag (probably), but it’s a nice side-effect. I find it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the Classical references and lofty teachings of art that one forgets that art, nine times out of ten, is just good fun. It’s funny when Nicholas gets a poker up the arse in the Miller’s Tale, it’s daft when Fame gives out random legacies to people in The House of Fame, and Pandarus leading Troilus along like a kid sitting atop another’s shoulders, encouraging them to run by dangling a donut on a string in front of them, is cool. I certainly forget that, but today I didn’t; the dry incoherence of some 14th Century poetry suddenly became alive through hashtags and memes.

And it was great.

Now if only we could do something about the 21st century interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

And here I wol abyden the,
Casey

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