John Gardner (19331982) was a noted medievalistpublishing studies of Chaucer’s poetry and translations of the Gawain Poetas well as a novelist. Among his novels are Grendel, Nickel Mountain, October Light (winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1976), and The Sunlight Dialogues. He also wrote books on the craft of fiction and the controversial critical work On Moral Fiction.
The Life and Times of Chaucer (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by John Gardner
The Life and Times of Chaucer is a boldly imaginative reconstruction of the poet and his age. Bringing to bear his own considerable literary gifts, John Gardner allows us to experience Chaucer’s life from close quarters: his childhood in London, his rise in the service of princes and kings, and his triumph as a writer. It is not/b>/i>/i>
The Life and Times of Chaucer is a boldly imaginative reconstruction of the poet and his age. Bringing to bear his own considerable literary gifts, John Gardner allows us to experience Chaucer’s life from close quarters: his childhood in London, his rise in the service of princes and kings, and his triumph as a writer. It is not surprising that the book, while scrupulous about the facts, often reads like a fine novel.
Gardner places the reader at Chaucer’s side as he rides through France with the armies of the Black Prince, travels among the splendors of early Renaissance Italy, and performs as star poet at a dazzling chivalric ceremony. We share Chaucer’s vantage point on such major figures as the resplendent Edward II and the doomed, brooding Richard II. Gardner’s re-creation of Chaucer’s times includes compelling depictions of the Black Death, London during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, and the outlandish festival honoring “the Lady of the Sun”: Alice Perrers, mistress of Edward II.
With a medievalist’s understanding of Chaucer’s mind, Gardner finds persuasive answers to some vexing questions of Chaucer studies: how Chaucer probably felt toward his wife (the former mistress, in all likelihood, of his patron, John of Gaunt) and how best to regard his deathbed retraction of the works that have made him immortal, including The Canterbury Tales. In The Life and Times of Chaucer, scholarship and the narrative art meld perfectly to produce a delight for lovers of Chaucer and of the Middle Ages.
Praise for John Gardner:
“John Gardner was a whole university educationa ‘school’in himself.” Charles Johnson
From the introduction to the book:
“Poems as tortuously reasoned and meticulously crafted as John Donne’s, but much longer, he gave the appearance of flowing from his inkhorn as lightly and merrily as water from a spring. And the result of his deceptive simplicity has been that, except for ill-grounded Victorian searchings for amorous scandal or political intrigue, most readers, from the late sixteenth century until the early twentieth, no more felt inclined to ask what deeper possibilities lay hidden in the purling of Chaucer’s verse than they would ask the shadow of a trout the time of day.”
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