People shouldn’t be put off reading Chaucer's language because his language can seem inaccessible. Two Oxford academics explain why it’s worth persevering with it. Jenni Nuttall, lecturer in English at Oxford University and author of Troilus and Criseyde: A Reader’s Guide chooses her best books to help you get to grips with that poem. She describes it as “an extraordinary piece of storytelling . . . one of the very greatest instances of moment-by-moment narration, of looking through different characters’ eyes: falling in love, being happy, betraying someone.”
Marion Turner, associate professor of English at Oxford, who has recently written a full-length biography of Chaucer, chooses her best books on the Canterbury Tales. Both interviewees emphasise Chaucer’s Europe-wide cultural milieu and his relatively radical voice. He may be “the father of English literature”, but his poems are neither as hierarchical, nor as isolationist (or, indeed as boring!) as that title might suggest. He is one of the great comic poets in the English language.
Troilus and Criseyde
Geoffrey Chaucer (ed. by Stephen Barney)
Oxford Guides to Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde
by Barry Windeatt
The Double Sorrow of Troilus: A Study of Ambiguities in ‘Troilus and Criseyde’
by Ida L. Gordon
The Tragic Argument of Troilus and Criseyde
by Gerald Morgan
A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde
by Lavinia Greenlaw
Troilus and Criseyde has a centuries’ old backstory. Long before Renaissance dramas or realist novels, Chaucer wrote a love story set in a besieged city that was a deep psychological exploration of character and human relationships. Jenni Nuttall, author of Troilus and Criseyde: A Reader’s Guide, shares her reading recommendations after over a decade of teaching the poem to Oxford undergraduates.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales not only revolutionized English poetry—they’re also extremely funny and moving. Oxford Professor Marion Turner, who has written the first full-length biography of Chaucer in a generation, tells us about the extraordinary man who wrote them and why we should all read the Canterbury Tales.