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A brief commentary prepared by Miriamne Ara Krummel, PhD, Associate Professor, English, on the following work:

Geoffrey Chaucer
Canterbury Tales
London , ca. 1492; from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan


Starting as a young page in the household of the Countess of Ulster and later laboring as a forester, sheriff, keeper of the gates, and possibly even a spy, Geoffrey Chaucer—whom fifteenth-century poets dubbed “the father of English literature”—amassed vast storehouses of information for his imagination. Though he composed many works—incidental poetry, dream visions, a scientific treatise, and epic love poetry—he is best known for the collection of stories he never completed: The Canterbury Tales.After Chaucer’s death in 1400, his eldest son, Thomas, arranged to have The Canterbury Tales cast into a beautiful volume, written by a trained scribe. This volume, now known as the Ellesmere Chaucer, includes elaborately introduced paragraphs and miniatures of the pilgrims telling the tales. Among these miniatures is Chaucer, who as a pilgrim tells “The Tale of Sir Thopas” and “The Tale of Melibee.” The copy on exhibit is an early modern print edition.

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Bobbi Sutherland, assistant professor of English, reflects on her first experiences reading the Canterbury Tales and discusses the significance of Geoffrey Chaucer’s work for medieval historians.

Chaucer: ‘Canterbury Tales’


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