About Medieval Literature: Double Seminar


Medieval Literature Double Seminar

  • Friday 10 April
  • Room 601, Michie Building (#9)
  • 3pm - 5pm

Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition | Simone Marshall

  • 3pm - 4pm

In 2011 I discovered a previously unknown edition of The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, published in 1807. The editing of Chaucer’s works has an extensive history, dating from Caxton’s first edition of The Canterbury Tales in 1475 through to James Simpson’s and Christopher Cannon’s edition of the complete works to be published with Oxford Scholarly Editions Online in the coming years, and has been described as ‘The Great Tradition’ by Paul Ruggiers and many others after him. Since my discovery, I have set about a detailed examination of the 1807 edition to see how it contributes to our knowledge of the works of Chaucer and where its place lies in the Great Tradition.

Among the most conspicuous variations, an advertisement for the 1807 edition specifically states that the punctuation has been

…deliberately considered and revised; so that it is hoped that, in these ancient Authors, such a measure of perspicuity and illustration is attained, as will nearly remove the veil of obscurity which a revolution in language had thrown over their beauties.

Compared with all previous editions of the works of Chaucer, the 1807 edition has significantly altered the punctuation, and clearly from the advertisement, this is regarded as an important improvement to aid understanding of the texts. In this paper, I examine the punctuation used in the 1807 edition, compared with its most immediate predecessor, the 1798 edition of Thomas Tyrwhitt’s The Canterbury Tales, in order to determine as much as possible the ‘veil of obscurity’ that had been lying over Chaucer, and the extent to which the 1807 edition removes (or nearly removes) it.

Dr Simone Marshall is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Her research interests lie primarily in late Middle English literature, in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and his later imitators. In recent times she has turned to consider how Chaucer's works were received in later centuries, and will next consider the many continuations of The Squire's Tale as part of a project on The Search for the British Homer.

The Disappearance of Theology in Piers Plowman | Kenneth Chong

  • 4pm - 5pm

In William Langland's Piers Plowman, why does the figure of Theology hardly appear? That seems odd, in a poem that is so concerned (as critics have long pointed out) with the salvation of the soul. In this paper, I consider the instances in which Theology does appear, and suggest that his cameo roles -- as interlocutor and object of study -- is indicative of a problem with the current state of fourteenth-century theology and its need to be reconstituted anew. Langland, I argue, offers two alternative theologies in the figures of Clergy and, more radically, Piers, even as the poem narrates the disappearance of academic theology.

Dr Kenneth Chong is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the UQ Node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100-1800). Kenneth works primarily on medieval literature and intellectual history. His research interests include medieval (and modern) theology and philosophy, scholastic thought, Middle English, and monasticism. He has published in Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, Bunyan Studies, and 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, and writes for Books & Culture. Currently, he is preparing scholarly articles on Pearl, Piers Plowman, and Anselm's Monologion, as well as working on a book manuscript about the rewriting of scholastic theology in the vernacular. His project at CHE examines the theological passions from roughly the twelfth to sixteenth centuries.


Room 601, Michie Building (St Lucia)