Geoffrey Chaucer of England Critical Context - Essay

Marchette Gaylord Chute

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although Geoffrey Chaucer of England was published in 1946, there is as yet no equivalent popular biography of Chaucer for the general reader. There are several scholarly biographies intended for a specialist audience, but those lack the unpretentious, easily comprehended prose style of Chute. Yet this fact by no means implies that Chute brought no scholarship to the writing of her text. She worked only with secondary source materials (books and articles by Chaucer scholars), but what she read was fully digested and forms a very solid scholarly basis for this book. Chute also did not accept her sources uncritically. She rejected attempts to identify certain characters in the poems with real people of Chaucer’s acquaintance, sensibly asserting that such a practice is “risky” six centuries after the fact. Despite the ways in which the modern understanding of Chaucer’s life and writings may have changed since the 1940’s, Chute’s work endures. Her goal was to inspire a liking for the man and his material that might draw the reader into a personal acquaintance with them. In this endeavor, she succeeded very well.