September 08, 2015

The Bawdy Book Club

Whether you're reading Chaucer with us, or simply checking in to see whether or not I'm doing my homework, I'm pleased to let you know that I remembered the date. It's Tuesday! And on Tuesdays, I decided we'd meet for our extremely unofficial, no-judgment-if-you're-still-on-page-six book club.

Aside: I was in a book club in my twenties. The rest of the women were close to twice my age and had been meeting together for years. I was invited because one of the members knew my family. The major portion of the club was dedicated to drinking. The unspoken rule was that nobody could ever like anyone else's book club selection. The arguments were legendary.

I started a novel called Cosmopolitan about the book club when I was about twenty-six.

So our unofficial bawdy book group is based on behaving in the opposite manner to that club. Although drinking is definitely not frowned upon.

For today, I thought that I'd give a little background about Chaucer. Because I like to educate myself as much as the next dropout. Here is what I found:

• Chaucer was born around 1340 and died in 1400. Pause for a second. I constantly read about how authors hope to be relevant in some way, shape, or form. Think about this for a minute. Chaucer lived nearly 700 years ago, and we're still reading his work today. Damn.

• Some students think that UCLA killed their English department by eliminating their single author course requirements in Milton, Shakespeare, and Chaucer.

• The fact that Chaucer wrote in English instead of French was monumental. According to The British Library, "'The Canterbury Tales'" was one of the first major works in literature to be written in English."

• Chaucer's style was influenced by French and Italian works.

• The Canterbury Tales were unfinished. (I did not know this!) The original plan was for 100 stories, but only 24 were completed. For some reason, this gives me hope. I have so many unfinished projects. It's a relief to know I am not alone!

• This fact was equally delightful to me—The Canterbury Tales have been published continuously since Chaucer's death.

Chaucer's classic has been banned and censored throughout the years. Seriously.

Now, I'll ask how you're enjoying the book, and open the comments to any insights you'd like to share. (Even if you read the work long ago.) I'm feeling a little guilty for reading the translation, I must say. My new plan is to finish this version and then try to read the Middle English.



baddoggerel said...

I've only just finished the General Prologue, and I share your guilt. I'm reading the Coghill translation, because I wanted to know what was going on before I got down in the weeds of Middle English.

Jim Scovill said...

To slake you thirst or whet your appetite for Middle English I've reproduced lines 105-112 of ?

Jim Scovill said...

This maide of which I wol this tale express
So kepte hirself, hir neded no maistress.
For in hir living maidens might rede,
As in a book, every good word or dede
That longeth to a maiden vertuous,
She was so prudent and so bountevous.
For which the fame out sprong on every side
Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wide,

Jim Scovill said...

This fragment is phonetically equivalent to modern English except for the words:
L109 longeth to. - befits
L110 bountevous. - virtuous
L111 out sprong - spread
L112 bountee. - goodness