Saturday, August 2, 2014

Notes about Geoffrey Chaucer from a Literary Conference in Alexandria, Va.

I recently attended a literary conference in Alexandria, Va.

Most of the people there knew much more about fiction and poetry than I did. That's not a very hard thing to accomplish. In fact, my whole purpose for attending the conference was to learn from them -- to be a sponge.

Let me wring out that sponge a little bit: According to the main speaker, Geoffrey Chaucer seems to be having a lot of fun when he is writing the Canterbury Tales. He was being very playful with his readers and it is fun reading him.

"No shame in making a farce in himself," my notes read. I think I meant "of himself" but you know how clumsy fast note-taking can be.

There's some illegible stuff in my notes, but the rest of the next sentence in question says "… yet charming, narrator based on himself."

I like the fact that this speaker pointed out that his "writing reflects his skill as a reader," according to my notes. He was very "intertexual"; that is, he "brings multiple stories together and sees them talking." He takes different authors -- perhaps before him and contemporary with him -- and makes them talk in his stories.

Then some time in history there was a "vowel shift" in the English language (I guess). My notes aren't very detailed on that point. However, apparently people were taught how to read Chaucer after this vowel shift. Maybe not. There's also a note about someone paying "lip service to Chaucer, more marginal," whatever that means.

Also, Chaucer influenced Shakespeare. The speaker also said that Edmund Spenser was an influence to Shakespeare; and I might add, this influence was contemporary, too, as Spenser is only 12 years older than Shakespeare.

In fact, Spenser was what Shakespeare wanted and tried to be, according to the speaker; and Spencer wanted to be Chaucer, who lived two centuries before both of them.

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