Chaucer: A Love/Hate Relationship


Undoubtedly if you’ve ever studied the english language at an institution of “higher learning” you’ve come across Geoffrey Chaucer.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a clever guy, “ahead of his time” as we say about the greats,  but holy shit can I get sick of him real damn fast!
This is my fourth, count ’em, FOURTH paper on Chaucer. And only the first of two for this particular medieval literature course.  You might say, “then stop taking medieval literature courses.” Well, I assure you I’ve considered it, but it’s Chaucer or Shakespeare, and as much as Chaucer can piss me off Shakespeare should be heard not read. It is a play after all, so why make me read and analyze it when it’s meant to be watched on a stage to entertain on a primary level, not only a literary level. The point is to watch and hear Shakespeare over and over, not pick apart his works on the page over and over. At least Chaucer was meant to be read.
That being said, what else could I possibly say about Chaucer? They, and by “they” I mean the academic community of literature, have been analyzing this one sarcastic, witty, condescending bastard for YEARS! What in my three years of university could I have possibly learnt that would generate some new fanciful and enlightening insight into Chaucer that has not already been thought of? What do they expect me to write? If they want some recycled idea, why don’t they read their own papers from way back when on Chaucer, I’m certain they had to write some.
That being said, I realize it’s important for us to explore the classics and the greats in order to understand where modern literature has grown from, but could we PLEASE lessen the amount of papers on the man? Yes, he’s brilliant and all that, but honestly how much can I really say about the Wife of Bath that my professor doesn’t already know?

Now, I realize that thinking this and not letting my professor know how I feel about the whole Chaucer stigma is a cop-out, a bitchy and cowardly move.  So, as I can be bitchy, but in no way consider myself a coward when it comes to proving a point (even if I’m wrong) I will let you in on the opening paragraph of this particular Chaucer paper:

For years we have been picking apart the words of Geoffrey Chaucer in his work The Canterbury Tales, trying desperately to come to the right conclusions about his multi-faceted characters. Which authority will decide when the right conclusion has finally been reached? Is there a panel of judges or just one person waiting to say “Yes, this is right,” or will Chaucer descend from the sky to come out and say, “By George, I think they’ve finally understood exactly what I did here?”  No, to my understanding there is no omnipotent authority that will finally tell us we have done well, and we have finally figured out Chaucer. This is the exact purpose of The Canterbury Tales; whichever character is looked at his or her personality can never be pinned down, no matter how palpable the analysis proves to be. This struggle to understand Chaucer comes from his playful look at authority. Chaucer uses his characters as a guise to undermine and expose any perceived authoritative conception.

Of course, I had to provide some literary/academic merit to this particular rant. But I think I got my point across.

I’m starting to feel that university is without a doubt only a business these days. I pay thousands upon thousands of dollars taking classes to be judged by people who have gone through the same process only to end up with this paper, this flimsy, flammable, piece of paper with my name on it that says, “You finished the requirements and passed, you jumped through our hoops and paid through the nose to do so, Congratulations So and So.” This piece of paper will in no way validate my existence as I thought it once would. It is likely that I will not enter the field in which I’ve spent six years trying to attain a degree in. I will most likely end up staying at my two serving jobs because I make enough to get by comfortably. So why am I doing this? I realize that this insight may have spawned from this education, so the irony is not lost on me.

This insight into the bureaucracy and pointlessness of the university degree has been brought to you by a rant on Chaucer… maybe we should be studying him after all.

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