Classics and the Western Canon discussion

49 views
Discussion - Canterbury Tales > The Canterbury Tales as a whole

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We're approaching the finish line, and since I didn't include a wrap-up week in the schedule, I'll set up a thread here for overall discussion of the work (but limit specific comments to tales we've already read -- no spoilers please!)

Some questions that occur to me:

The Canterbury Tales follow a frame story of pilgrims on a pilgrimage. (This is apparently based on Boccacio's Decameron, where a group of friends flee the city and decamp to the countryside to sit out the plague. In that case, as I recall the Decameron, they know each other; in the CT, they are strangers.)

How relevant do you find the pilgrim frame story? Would the same tales have fit as well in some other frame story -- perhaps a group shipwrecked on an island waiting for rescue? Why do you think Chaucer picked this frame? Was it only because this is one of the few situations in his time when people of a variety of backgrounds would have been likely to spend a few days together? Or was there something more about the pilgrimage that makes it particularly appropriate?

Do you think the stories hang together, or are they more like stories in a short story anthology, just put together without any particular relevance for how well one works with another?

Why is the Canterbury Tales considered a classic of English Literature? Is Harold Bloom right when he writers, in "The Western Canon," "except for Shakespeare, Chaucer is foremost among writers in the English Language"? What about Clifton Fadiman, who writes "As Dante's masterwork is called the Divine Comedy, so Chaucer's has often been called the Human Comedy. It is a fair distinction. Dante loved God; Chaucer loved human beings, including the imperfect and even sinful ones." While Dante, Fadiman pointed out, took his readers on an entirely imaginary journey, Chaucer "fixed his eye on the crowded highway of actual daily life. ... Chaucer takes himself and thirty-odd Englishmen and Englishwoman of the 14th century and sets his wayfarers on a real journey on a real English road, starting at a real inn at south work, then just outside of London, and ending up a real town of Canterbury."

Do you feel that you are getting to know some of these people? (Or maybe that you would if you re-read some of the tales now that you no longer have to struggle with the language just to figure out what's going on and can focus on the people involved?)

Or is this being a basic yawner and you're wondering what all the fuss is about? (If that's the case, don't be afraid to say so -- nobody will put you down here for being honest, and one can't expect everybody to love every book.)

Any other comments you want to make, anytime from now on to the end of the reading and beyond, on the book as a whole and/or its proper place in English literature or the Western Canon?


message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Lavoie | 33 comments So many excellent questions! I think some of the tales may have fit in another frame story, but given the people involved, would they have been together in any other circumstance? I don't think that is very likely. But this doesn't feel like just a short story anthology to me. First there is the Miller's Tale and the Reeve's Tale. These two men tell their tales in answer to another (the Reeve in answer to what the Miller says). I can't mention the other set as it hasn't happened yet... but those - while interesting separately - wouldn't have nearly the same effect.


message 3: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK The tales apart, which are quite often lifted from other sources, I think Chaucer deserves his place in the Western canon for his decision to write in the vernacular which, in turn, contributed over 2000 new words to the English language.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c...


message 4: by Sasha (new)

Sasha That's astonishing, Madge! 2000 words! As I get older I am more and more in awe of the relatively small number of people who have had a significant impact on Western civilization.

I agree with Fadiman, Chaucer's view of humanity is ultimately sympathetic. As John of Gaunt's brother-in-law, Chaucer would have been moving in the highest circles, and yet he writes without fear or favor about all stratas of society.

For me, the Tales have again reminded me that human nature is immutable.


message 5: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Everyman wrote: "We're approaching the finish line, and since I didn't include a wrap-up week in the schedule, I'll set up a thread here for overall discussion of the work (but limit specific comments to tales we'v..."

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading CT, much more than I thought I would. The stories are so diverse, I approached each new tale with increasing anticipation, wondering what would come next.

After reading the Reeve's and Miller's tales, I feared the whole thing had descended into vulgar farce, but it hadn't.

In answer to Everyman's question about the relevance of the pilgrim frame story, I tend to the view that it was an ideal vehicle for grouping individuals from starkly different backgrounds in a situation where they are on an equal footing and no one has to fight for preeminence. A very clever device.

Reading CT has inspired me to read more Chaucer, I would love to read Troilus and Cressida with the group one day.


message 6: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK ...it was an ideal vehicle for grouping individuals from starkly different backgrounds in a situation where they are on an equal footing and no one has to fight for preeminence. A very clever device.

I agree Sasha and thought it was also a clever device to introduce the king, his patron and other courtiers to the characters and language of a group of people they might not otherwise encounter.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Sasha wrote: "Reading CT has inspired me to read more Chaucer, I would love to read Troilus and Cressida with the group one day. "

It's on the bookshelf, so you may get to vote on it some day. It would be fun to read it alongside Shakespeare's Troilus and Crssida.


message 8: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Good idea! I watched the BBC 1978 version of A Midsummer Night's Dream last night precisely because of Chaucer's allusions to Pyrimus and Thisbe-can't recall which tale it was in, though.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have some questions though....

First, the tales are derivative. Unlike Shakespeare who can steal two stories and create a third one better than either of the others, do Chaucer's retellings improve upon the originals? Are they even as compelling? Does the frame make the picture?

Could it be that CT's place in the canon is won more by virtue of being first (vernacular, etc) than by enduring quality? Granted they show modern readers that human nature is immutable. But hasn't that been done many times since--and with greater art?

Again, I am only asking. Obviously, I am not in position to defend these points. That is why I pose them as questions.


message 10: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Zeke wrote: "Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have some questions ..."

I don't know whether Chaucer improves on the original stories, because I haven't read them :). For my part, I think the stories are compelling due to plot and character.

I realised how much I liked the tales when I come across an unfinished one and I am very disappointed.

Like any great literature, I believe the tales are timeless and beautifully written. I have read the Squire's Tale and when we start discussing it, I will post a quote which I thought quite beautiful.


message 11: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4429 comments Zeke wrote: "Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have some questions ..."

I guess for me Chaucer isn't directly saying anything about human nature. He is revealing his world to us, and doing it in a way that was unprecedented (as far as I know) and with a level of complexity that is almost transparent. I think it's easy to judge these tales as simplistic folk-tales, fart jokes, or petty squabbling. But beneath the rawness of some of the tales (and the people) there is humanity displayed in a way that is surprisingly fresh, even to readers six centuries later. Very few artists are able to do that for readers in their own time, let alone for readers centuries hence. For me that makes CT "canon" worthy.


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "Unlike Shakespeare who can steal two stories and create a third one better than either of the others, do Chaucer's retellings improve upon the originals? Are they even as compelling? Does the frame make the picture?"

That's hard to answer since I haven't read most of the originals. (Nor have I read many of the originals Shakespeare drew on.)

But what I like with the CT is that he does seem to fit the tale to the teller. Not only does he pick tales that fit the character of the teller, but the language and presentation seem to fit the character of the teller and give us an even better understanding of the character of that particular pilgrim.

Often, I find him doing this in ways that are evident to the reader but not evident to the teller him- or herself.

I'm sorry you decided not to stick with the Tales -- I think you would find them worth reading. But I also know that there are always priorities to be balanced.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "I think it's easy to judge these tales as simplistic folk-tales, fart jokes, or petty squabbling. But beneath the rawness of some of the tales (and the people) there is humanity displayed in a way that is surprisingly fresh, even to readers six centuries later. "

That's a good point, Thomas. He gives us a good cross-section of the society he lived in, from top to bottom, in a way very few authors are able to do. Even when he is laughing at a character, I feel it's done in an affectionate way.

Zeke brought up Shakespeare, and I realize that one difference between Shakespeare and Chaucer is that Shakespeare tends to write more about upper class people, or at least not about the laboring classes. when he does, as with Bottom and his crew, it's mostly to bring them in for laughs, or makes them background rather than fully developed characters as with, for example, the sailors in the Tempest. But very few of his characters, it seems to me at the moment, are people with ordinary lower-level jobs. He doesn't show the Millers, the Reeves, lower level clerics, the summoners. Chaucer's palate of characters seems to me more varied and, dare I say it, richer than Shakespeare's (with the exception that Chaucer doesn't show any of the royal personages except maybe the Knight, who certainly can't compare with any of Shakespeare's kings and dukes and princes).

I'm not trying to say that one is better than the other. But that Chaucer certainly, in mind mind, doesn't come off as second best when compared with creating interesting people.


message 14: by Mike (new)

Mike Walker (mjwalker) | 1 comments Zeke wrote: "Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have some questions ..."

Deciding on whether Chaucer's version of the "loathly lady" in the Wife's tale is an improvement on Gower's version or not is really a matter of taste. His introduction to the WB isn't derivative but a real step forward in poetic analysis of the mind and personality, the same sort of step that Shakespeare took with Hamlet. The same goes for the pardoner's tale.

His work with romances is also an advance; the Knight's Tale matches or exceeds anything on that kind you'll find in French and Italian of the time. The fabliaux are derivative and don't improve on the models in the Decameron (which are also derivative). My favorite is the Parson's Tale, a perfect example of medieval sermons. Such is my taste.


message 15: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 28, 2011 08:49AM) (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: and I realize that one difference between Shakespeare and Chaucer is that Shakespeare tends to write more about upper class people, or at least not about the laboring classes. when he does, as with Bottom and his crew...

Is the fact that Chaucer chose to write in the vernacular a key to this different approach? Chaucer chose the language of the people whereas Shakespeare, by and large, is writing about the aristocracy and uses their language, with the exception of Bottom, the Porter et al,. Chaucer's other works, which were not in the vernacular, had aristocratic characters.

These two extracts from the Luminarian Anthology of English Literature http://www.luminarium.org/medlit/chau... perhaps throw some light on the question of the use of language:-

'Chaucer's failure to complete the scheme of the Legende of Good Women may have been partly due to the attractions of the Canterbury Tales, which were probably taken up in immediate succession to it. His guardianship of two Kentish wards, his justiceship of the peace, his representing the county in the parliament of 1386, his commissionership of the river-bank between Greenwich and Woolwich, all make it easy to understand his dramatic use of the merry crowds he saw on the Canterbury road, without supposing him to have had recourse to Boccaccio's Decamerone, a book which there is no proof of his having seen...

...The part played by Chaucer in the development of the English language has often been overrated. He neither corrupted it, as used to be said, by introducing French words which it would otherwise have avoided, nor bore any such part in fixing it as was afterwards played by the translators of the Bible. When he was growing up, educated society in England was still bilingual, and the changes in vocabulary and pronunciation which took place during his life were the natural results of a society, which had been bilingual with a bias towards French, giving an exclusive preference to English. The practical identity of Chaucer's language with that of Gower shows that both merely used the best English of their day with the care and slightly conservative tendency which befitted poets. Chaucer's service to the English language lies in his decisive success having made it impossible for any later English poet to attain fame, as Gower had done, by writing alternatively in Latin and French. The claim which should be made for him is that, at least as regards poetry, he proved that English was "sufficient." '


message 16: by Everyman (last edited Feb 28, 2011 10:16AM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Mike wrote: "Deciding on whether Chaucer's version of the "loathly lady" in the Wife's tale is an improvement on Gower's version or not is really a matter of taste. His introduction to the WB isn't derivative but a real step forward in poetic analysis of the mind and personality, the same sort of step that Shakespeare took with Hamlet. The same goes for the pardoner's tale. "

I haven't been able to snuff out and read the originals of most of the tales, but I do know the Decameron and the tales he drew from it (either directly or from shared sources), and I find that they are not mere retellings, but that while Boccaccio, as I read him, focused more on the tales themselves, Chaucer added in the element of the tellers, and thereby enriched the experience of reading the tales that are derived from the Decameron.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been thinking a lot about Everyman's comment characterizing Shakespeare as a poet of the "upper classes" and attributing to Chaucer a better grasp of the "common man." Madge seems to be in agreement for the most part: Is the fact that Chaucer chose to write in the vernacular a key to this different approach? Chaucer chose the language of the people whereas Shakespeare, by and large, is writing about the aristocracy and uses their language, with the exception of Bottom, the Porter et al,. Chaucer's other works, which were not in the vernacular, had aristocratic characters.

I think this is a bit unfair to Shakespeare. Beyond Bottom and the Porter, I think there are many characters (and not just the comic ones) who, although not speaking in the vernacular certainly represent the experience of non-aristocratic people of the time. And who speak movingly to those of our time who do not share the assumptions of the aristocracy.

What about Falstaff and his crew? For that matter, is there anything in CT more moving than Hostess Quickly's description of "Sir" John's death?

Nay, sure, he's not in hell: he's in Arthur's
bosom, if ever man went to Arthur's bosom. A' made
a finer end and went away an it had been any
christom child; a' parted even just between twelve
and one, even at the turning o' the tide: for after
I saw him fumble with the sheets and play with
flowers and smile upon his fingers' ends, I knew
there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as
a pen, and a' babbled of green fields. 'How now,
sir John!' quoth I. 'what, man! be o' good
cheer.' So a' cried out 'God, God, God!' three or
four times. Now I, to comfort him, bid him a'
should not think of God; I hoped there was no need
to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet. So
a' bade me lay more clothes on his feet: I put my
hand into the bed and felt them, and they were as
cold as any stone; then I felt to his knees, and
they were as cold as any stone, and so upward and
upward, and all was as cold as any stone.


Continuing with Falstaff's connections, what about Robert Shallow, a poor esquire of this
and one of the King's justices of the peace
and an exchange I find particularly moving? These two might have imagined themselves aristocrats but, in the event, both know they were insignificant yet still seek to find importance in their experience. The best they can do is reflect on their youth when anything seemed possible and carousing all night was a harbinger of a future that failed to materialize.

Falstaff. Come, I will go drink with you, but I cannot tarry
dinner. I am glad to see you, by my troth, Master Shallow.
Robert Shallow. O, Sir John, do you remember since we lay all night in
windmill in Saint George's Field?
Falstaff. No more of that, Master Shallow, no more of that.
Robert Shallow. Ha, 'twas a merry night. And is Jane Nightwork alive?
Falstaff. She lives, Master Shallow.
Robert Shallow. She never could away with me.
Falstaff. Never, never; she would always say she could not
Master Shallow.
Robert Shallow. By the mass, I could anger her to th' heart. She was
a bona-roba. Doth she hold her own well?
Falstaff. Old, old, Master Shallow.
Robert Shallow. Nay, she must be old; she cannot choose but be old;
certain she's old; and had Robin Nightwork, by old Nightwork,
before I came to Clement's Inn.
Silence. That's fifty-five year ago.
Robert Shallow. Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that that
knight and I have seen! Ha, Sir John, said I well?
Falstaff. We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.
Robert Shallow. That we have, that we have, that we have; in faith,
John, we have. Our watchword was 'Hem, boys!' Come, let's to
dinner; come, let's to dinner. Jesus, the days that we have
Come, come.


That small town official and the puffed up "high school letterman" Rotarian but not much more seem very very real to me.

I can't even begin to get into the characters of the "problem" plays--Measure for Measure, As You Like It, etc. But I invite anyone to give me "lay" characters from Chaucer more complex and deeply textured than Shylock.

Some of these reflections are prompted by a very interesting book I just finished. It is called The Lodger-Shakespeare by Charles Nicholls. In great detail (and with informed speculation) he chronicles Shakespeare's years living in decidedly not upscale Cripplegate in the home of a French hairdresser, and his connection with his collaborator George Wilkins who, in addition to being a somewhat talented writer, was a whore master and brawler. Nicholls shows (speculates?) how these connections and others influenced the plays.

I am not trying to demean Chaucer--and I know none of you were trying to demean Shakespeare. So what am I trying to do here? I suppose I just want to suggest that we not judge my favorite author by his "best" plays. The deeper we dig, the more we discover that he had an amazing appreciation of all of humanity.

Another question: can anyone who thinks seriously about Caliban argue that Shakespeare only deals with aristocrats?


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "I've been thinking a lot about Everyman's comment characterizing Shakespeare as a poet of the "upper classes" and attributing to Chaucer a better grasp of the "common man." ...I think this is a bit unfair to Shakespeare. .."

I certainly agree with you that Shakespeare had a number of non-aristocratic characters, just as Chaucer had his knight, a quite high status character. I hope I didn't give the impression that I though it was all upper class in Shakespeare and all lower class in Chaucer. Not at all. But I do think that Shakespeare has a much greater percentage of upper class and Chaucer a much greater percentage of working class. And while there are indeed a few notable lower class characters in Shakespeare -- the Midsummer Night's Dream certainly included -- I think if you counted up all the characters in all the plays you would find a strong majority being non working class characters.

But overall, I think that Shakespeare's main characters are primarily of the higher classes, and Chaucer's in the Canterbury Tales are primarily of the lower, or perhaps I would better say the laboring classes. I can't think offhand of a single Shakespeare play in which the leading character is a working class person (as long as you exclude Christopher Sly in the Taming of the Shrew, who hardly counts). Even Falstaff, whom you mention, is a knight, perhaps not a very noble one, but a knight nonetheless. And many of Shakespeare's working class characters are drunks or brigands or fools or otherwise not presented as honest working people, as are I think Chaucer's Miller and Reeve and Cook (well, maybe not the cook!) and Yeoman (even though we don't get tales from all the working class people, we do get portraits of them in the General Prologue) and Shipman and Plowman and Manciple and ...

I'm trying to think where in Shakespeare we get a sympathetic portrait of a laborer as a significant character, and while I'm sure there are a couple, the only one I'm coming up with offhand is the gardener in one of the Richard plays, as I recall (not wanting to interrupt my train of thought to look it up at the moment).

So though certainly it's not all one way in Shakespeare and all the other in Chaucer, I do think that Chaucer gives considerably more attention and prominence to and sympathetic treatment of laboring folk than Shakespeare does.


message 19: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I take your point Zeke but tend to agree with Everyman's last paragraph here. Thanks for the textual analysis though, because it is an interesting p.o.v. to ponder.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I asked in one of the posts to a Week 9 tale (I forget which) about the significance of the interludes between the tales. They seem to me to serve two obvious functions: one, to keep the frame story in the foreground so that this clearly is seen not just as a series of short stories but as a unified sequence progressing from one to another (even if we're not sure of the exact sequence Chaucer intended the tales to appear in), and two, to provide (usually) a little levity between the tales. (A third effect, if not purpose, is to flesh out the character of Harry Bailey.)

But is there more to the interludes (prologues and epilogues) than this? If so, what might that more be?


message 21: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 232 comments Zeke wrote: "Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have some questions ..."

Good questions, Zeke. Like you, I fell behind. Part of it was my school schedule (last semester, trying to finish my Master's project), and some of it was trying to read it in the original language- I knew that would slow me down, but I didn't think it'd slow me down THIS much!

However, it wasn't that I didn't find them worthwhile.

"Unlike Shakespeare who can steal two stories and create a third one better than either of the others, do Chaucer's retellings improve upon the originals? Are they even as compelling? Does the frame make the picture?

Could it be that CT's place in the canon is won more by virtue of being first (vernacular, etc) than by enduring quality? Granted they show modern readers that human nature is immutable. But hasn't that been done many times since--and with greater art?"


Well, I haven't read the originals either. So far (because I'm still slogging along, slowly) I don't love it the way I love Shakespeare. In Shakespeare I feel like I'm always finding another bit of myself around the corner. I don't feel that in Chaucer.

Chaucer does seem a bit more 'real' to me- like a photograph is more 'real' than a painting. Maybe the painting has more art to it, but the photograph gives a clearer view of life in that moment.

I think Shakespeare is more like the painting. He takes real life and distills it. I love that about him. Chaucer is more like the photograph- it's a snapshot, with less careful managing of the content.

Generally I prefer paintings, but that doesn't mean that photographs can't be great works of art.

Did that make any sense?

Of course, I haven't finished either, so also can't defend my POV.


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments S. Rosemary wrote: "Generally I prefer paintings, but that doesn't mean that photographs can't be great works of art.

Did that make any sense?"


It makes a great deal of sense.

Another possible way of putting it is that Chaucer creates a character, Shakespeare creates the idea and soul of a character.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked the photograph/painting analogy. Also like Everyman's analogy to how Chaucer captures the flesh and blood while Shakespeare captures the other stuff. Soon we will have Melville to throw into the mix. He is both a 'realist,' and one who uses his characters to plumb both idea and soul. Yet he does it in a different manner from both Chaucer and Shakespeare by placing all in the realm of metaphysics.

But that must wait for a while.


message 24: by Sasha (new)

Sasha S. Rosemary wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Since I stayed behind while the pilgrims progressed, perhaps this comment will not stand scrutiny. I am glad that a number of people found the tales worthwhile and enjoyable. I have so..."

I like your analogy, S.Rosemary and I agree with it. Although, as has been pointed out earlier (I think, or perhaps I read it somewhere else), Shakespeare was able to draw on the hard graft done by Chaucer in the first place. Relatively speaking, as Chaucer revolutionized the expression of English, perhaps he had less time to hone achingly poetic phrasing.

The analogy I am about to use may seem absurd, but here goes. When I watch blockbuster movies like The Titanic, I am appalled by the rotten dialogue when so much effort has been put into the special effects, but I suppose that's the point-so much effort is required for special effects that there is no energy left for anything else.

Considering English had only just become the official language in courts and in official documents, for Chaucer to have written so much, with such a wide vocabulary, is simply astonishing.


message 25: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 47 comments Everyman wrote: "We're approaching the finish line, and since I didn't include a wrap-up week in the schedule, I'll set up a thread here for overall discussion of the work (but limit specific comments to tales we'v..."

Thanks Everyman for your excellent stewardship over the last few weeks while I and it’s obvious from the comments many here enjoyed this classic of English and world literature. You raised and challenged this group always in a timely fashion with incisive questions and issues from many directions just as you do now at the conclusion of this reading.
I recently read the Divine Comedy and was constantly comparing Chaucer’s work to Dante’s, their extensive awareness and interest in astronomy, and astrology, Greek and Roman myths, their use of the vernacular. Though Dante is preoccupied with afterlife, which seems more in tune with Medievalism and Chaucer with this life the Englishman exhibits in his interests and observations Renaissance more than Medievalism. I understand that England was still pretty Medieval in Chaucer’s time so perhaps his travels to Italy gave him a taste of the changes coming. Dante is an encyclopedia of medieval liberal arts, as has been often noted, Chaucer less than a hundred years later observes and describes real people of many classes and dispositions and leaves behind some many vivid portrayals of how life was in his time.


message 26: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Sasha wrote: "The analogy I am about to use may seem absurd, but here goes. When I watch blockbuster movies like The Titanic, I am appalled by the rotten dialogue when so much effort has been put into the special effects, but I suppose that's the point-so much effort is required for special effects that there is no energy left for anything else. ..."


I don't want to sound to elitist but I think the lack of dialog has much more to do with making a movie commercially viable then it does with budget allocation.


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The psychological purpose behind the pilgrimage to Canterbury is the same basic psychological purpose as a contemporary collector paying nearly $1 million for a used guitar. Or at least, so contends a study discussed in a New York Times article. Psychologists studying the reasons why collectors will pay huge sums for a used Eric Clapton guitar find that "One of their conclusions is that the seemingly illogical yearning for a Clapton relic, even a pseudorelic, stems from an instinct crucial to surviving disasters like the Black Death: the belief that certain properties are contagious, either in a good or a bad way. Another conclusion is that the magical thinking chronicled in “primitive” tribes will affect bids for the Clapton guitars being auctioned at Bonhams in Midtown Manhattan. "

The bones of Thomas a' Becket and an Eric Clapton Guitar. Linked in the human mind. Who would'a thunk it?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/sci...


message 28: by Bill (last edited Mar 09, 2011 11:47AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Everyman wrote: "The psychological purpose behind the pilgrimage to Canterbury is the same basic psychological purpose as a contemporary collector paying nearly $1 million for a used guitar. Or at least, so conte..."

Fascinating. The researchers should have asked potential bidders how important it was for others to know about and see the celebrity paraphernalia they buy. I've always assumed it was a sort of self expression and status symbol to own these things.


message 29: by 1.1 (new)

1.1 | 17 comments I'm glad I arrived to lurk this conversation thread, although I did fall out of the schedule, and Goodreads (For a while there; glad to be back, sorry to miss a chance to discuss Melville with you people.)

Regarding the case of Chaucer v. Shakespeare: that was a brilliant photo/painting analogy. Anachronistic, but great. And isn't that exactly the difference you would expect between a playwright and a poet? There is a sort of fossilized outrageousness about Chaucer that obviously helps his reception in perpetuity, but the language combined with some of his poetic style makes him impossible to read on a computer monitor.

What I do like about CT is that Chaucer is obviously a discerning spectator who knows how to setup a decent scene – although that's (similarity with painting, again) all subjective. I think the frame narrative style was effective at least at the outset of the pilgrimage, though, yea, I was beset upon by vagabonds thereafter.

Chaucer's characterizations aren't bad. I found the Knight's Tale to be the most lacking of those I'd read in terms of character, but I took that more as evidence of poetic character (grand useless epic) than as a particular demerit to Chaucer. Things definitely picked up with the Miller and the Reeve (more use of frame narrative) and there was certainly an overwhelming variety after that point.

Also I have to echo Galicius' praise for Everyman's excellent moderation/navigation.


back to top