Synopses & Reviews
The Poetry of Chaucer offers a reading of his poetry harmonious with the character of Chaucer as his own age knew and understood him. This new work by John Gardner is designed to complement his biography of Chaucer being published by Alfred A. Knopf.
The Poetry of Chaucer is not simply one more sensitive reading of the poets work, nor is it, simply, a modern writers comment on the work of one of his two greatest English predecessors. Gardners reading of the poetry of Chaucer provides a persuasive synthesis of virtually the whole body of scholarly work done on Chaucer in the past twenty yearsthe period of the critical revolution in Chaucerian studies. It may well be considered, for years to come, the definitive statement on how and why Chaucer wrote verse.
One purpose of Gardners The Poetry of Chaucer is to make the new evidence available to the nonspecialist. But Gardners larger purpose is to show how the various kinds of new evidence fit together, to demonstrate how, for the reader willing to look down from the mountaintop, seemingly conflicting readings of Chaucers poetry can be recognized as parts of a harmonious whole. Gathering and assessing the results of the past twenty years of Chaucer studies, adding striking new evidence derived from his own close analysis of Chaucers poetry, and for the first time emphasizing the importance, throughout Chaucers work, of the most significant philosophical movement of Chaucers age, so-called Nominalism, Gardner creates a coherent image of Chaucer and Chaucers art.
Gardner proves a sensitive, acute reader of one of the two greatest English poets. . . . Gardner makes the arresting proposal that Chaucer was experimenting, far ahead of his time, with such modern concepts as the unreliable narrator and the art of, so to speak, bad art. Crudely summarized, this must sound overingenious. But the energy, enthusiasm and complexity of Gardners argument stirs one to read Chaucer afresh.”Walter Clemons, Newsweek
About the Author
John Gardner is best known as a novelist and poet, author of Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues, The Kings Indian, and the epic poem Jason and Medeia. He has also published childrens fiction, essays, innumerable scholarly articles, and several scholarly books. He lives in Bennington, Vermont.