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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 17 - Chaucer’s Competitors

from Part II - Books, Discourse and Traditions

Summary

Chaucer’s early fame as the founding father of the English literary tradition is still justified on the basis of his linguistic and metrical achievements. However, he was only one of a number of later fourteenth-century writers engaged in making English a fit medium for literature. While Chaucer experimented with bringing complex continental forms of metre and stanza into English, the poets of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, the Morte Arthure, and Piers Plowman were turning the traditional alliterative metre into a vehicle to display poetic virtuosity. Chaucer’s prose works of learning and philosophy also have distinguished competitors. His translations of the Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius and his Treatise on the Astrolabe were made at the same time as huge encyclopaedic and historical works were being translated into English by his contemporary John Trevisa. The work of Chaucer’s competitors, much of it now neglected, offers revealing perspectives on his achievements.

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