Monday, November 03, 2008

All stressed out and no place to go

Pretty much says it all.

I hate the darkness at mid-afternoon.

We started talking about the "Friar's Tale" today; I spent a good chunk of time this weekend rereading the tale and making a handout to set up comparisons/contrasts:

Games and quitting

The Arch-deacon and the "Yeman's" boss
The Summoner and the Fiend at work
The Carter, the Widow, and the Summoner

Prayers ending tales: the Friar, the Prioress, the Nun's Priest

And a question about where the pilgrims are on their journey, and where we are

It was good work for me, because it got me thinking a lot more structurally about how the tale works; I'd never quite figured out why the heck we get that long description of the Arch-deacon, a character who doesn't really have a place in the tale at all. But then (I know, I'm slow), I started thinking about the Yeman complaining about his (unnamed) boss, and I think putting the two bosses in parallel makes a lot of sense of the long Arch-deacon's description. At any rate, it made better sense this time for me, and so I hope I can help my students make sense of it.

I think one difference between my reading and my students, is that I trust Chaucer enough to think he has a damned good reason for doing what he does, and that he's describing stuff because there's a point to it, so I go looking for the point and try to figure it out. My students just figure it's just there to make them struggle, and so they just try to get through.

I don't know that I trust many authors, but I trust Chaucer. Isn't that an odd concept? I trust Shakespeare's theatricality, too. But sometimes I just don't get how a scene works, even working within my trust. For example, the Macduff/Malcolm scene just seems overwrought and way too long. And I keep figuring, Shakespeare must be doing something theatrical here, and I'm not seeing it, but I still don't see it.

Question of the day: if you were sent to an empty library for a long stay, would you take a collected Chaucer or a collected Shakespeare, and why?

And if you chose Chaucer, which would you read (or reread) last, Boece or the Astrolab thing?

And if you chose Shakespeare, what would you read last?

(I will confess, I've never read Chaucer's Boece nor the Astrolab thing; this is just part of the reason I'll never be a real medievalist!)


  1. I'm teaching Chaucer next semester and I'll keep this post in mind!

    I would read Astrolab first, knowing that the good stuff will come after - but then I've always eaten my veggies first and then saved the lovely steak and abked potato for last...

  2. Shakespeare, hands down.

    But the last thing to read of the collection? That's hard. I'm inclined (normally) to say The Winter's Tale.

    But right now I'm really feeling Henry V.