Canonicity, Obscenity, and the Making of Modern Chaucer (COMMode): An Investigation of the Transmission and Audiences of The Canterbury Tales from 1700 to 2020
More than 600 years after he lived and wrote, Chaucer continues to play an important role in how Anglophone culture determines its standards of censorship and toleration. His association with naughty good humor is so widespread that the word “Chaucerian” can be used in popular discourse as a synonym for “bawdy in an acceptably Olde Englishe way”. But how did this evolve, and how does this idea of Chaucer as a “bawdy” poet sit alongside his canonical status?
This project recovers the untold history of how Chaucer became an icon of both literary fame and obscenity by examining the evolution of his most famous text alongside the evolution of his reputation between the publication of John Dryden’s Fables, Ancient and Modern in 1700 and the present day. By uncovering this history, the proposed project achieves a better understanding not only of Chaucerian reception throughout history but also the relationship between literature and the cultural determinations of what is permissible in language and art.
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