Monday, February 02, 2015

A Chaucerian Bookshelf

The following works were written by authors who were adults when Chaucer was alive.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Decameron. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Shares Chaucer’s diversity; indeed, Chaucer retells many of Boccaccio’s tales.

Bonet, Honoré. The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bonet. Transl. G. W. Coopland. Liverpool: University Press of Liverpool 1949. A learned clerk writes about law, justice, morality and violence, legitimate and otherwise.

Charny, Geoffroi de. The Book of Chivalry. Transl. Richard W. Kaeuper and Elspeth Kennedy. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. A knight writes about the ideals and obligations of knighthood.

Charny, Geoffroi de and Muhlberger, Steven. Charny's Men-at-Arms: Questions Concerning the Joust, Tournaments, and War. , Wheaton; Freelance Academy Press, 2014. Revealing questions from the famous knight about what does and does not conform to the law of arms, as seen by contemporary men at arms.

Froissart, Jean. Chronicles. Transl. Geoffrey Brereton. New York: Penguin 1978. A vivid and detailed contemporary chronicle; Froissart writes like an eyewitness even when he wasn’t, providing details that may not always be accurate but are always true to the author’s view of chivalric culture.

Kempe, Margery. The Book of Margery Kempe. Transl. Barry Windeatt. New York: Penguin 1988. Written after Chaucer’s lifetime by a woman who grew up during the late 1300s—this account of the author’s lifetime of spiritual exploration is one of few substantial medieval works to come from us from an English laywoman.

Langland, William. Piers the Plowman. Transl. J. F. Goodridge. New York: Penguin 1987. An allegorical exploration of contemporary society and morals, this was one of the most popular works in English during Chaucer’s lifetime.

Mandeville, John. Travels. Trans, C. W. R. D. Moseley. New York: Penguin 1983. Purporting to be the account of a fourteenth-century Englishman’s journeys, this book was also very popular in Chaucer’s day; it incorporates both fact and fantasy, and reflects popular ideas about the nature of the world.

Pizan, Christine de. The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry. Ed. and transl. Sumner and Charity Cannon Willard. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press 1999. Christine updates the late Roman military manual of Vegetius and Bonet’s Tree of Battles with a great deal of practical contemporary advice such as the number of bowstrings and wheelbarrows to bring to a siege.
Christine de Pizan was probably the first woman to make her living as a professional writer.

Pizan, Christine de and Rosalind Brown-Grant. 2005. The book of the city of ladies. Penguin Books. 2005. Christine gives advice on good conduct to women of all ranks, from women of high rank to prostitutes and the wives of laborers.

Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the Duke of True Lovers Transl.Thelma S Feinster and Nadia Margolis New York, Persea Books 1991  A profoundly unromantic and subversive romance presenting the argument that most of what male courtly lovers say about serving their ladies is self serving "since the honor and profit remains with them and not at all with the lady!"

Power, Eileen, transl. The Goodman of Paris. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1928. A wealthy and aged Parisian writes moral and practical advice to his young wife regarding the management of her household.

Tolkien, J. R. R., transl. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. New York: Ballantine Books, 1975. Dating to the late fourteenth century, Sir Gawain is one of the finest examples of Middle English romance; it offers both chivalric adventure and sophisticated humor.

Wright, Thomas, transl. The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969. A late fourteenth-century knight dispenses moral advice to his daughters illustrated by many anecdotes, some learned and classical, some lively and contemporary.

A shorter version of this list appears in:

Forgeng, Jeffrey L, and Will McLean. Daily Life in Chaucer's England. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

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