Life in Words: Essays on Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and Malory

Life in Words: Essays on Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and Malory


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This volume collects fifteen landmark essays published over the last three decades by the distinguished medievalist Jill Mann. Bringing together her essays on Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, and Malory, the collection foregrounds the common interest in the semantic implications of key vocabulary such as “authority,” “adventure,” and “price” that links them together.

Mann, one of the finest critics of Middle English literature in her generation, uses the concepts suggested by the language of medieval literature itself as a way into the masterpieces of Middle English, including The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Morte Darthur.

An extended introduction by Mark Rasmussen brings out the nature of the themes that run through the collection, analyses the critical methods in play, and assesses their significance in the context of Middle English studies over the last thirty years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781487528393
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 10/21/2020
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jill Mann is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and a Life Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge.

Mark David Rasmussen is Charles J. Luellen Professor of English at Centre College.

Table of Contents

Author’s Preface

A Note on References

List of Essays, with Places of Original Publication

Editor’s Introduction, “Jill Mann’s Patience”

1. Troilus’s Swoon

2. Shakespeare and Chaucer: “What is Criseyde Worth?”

3. Chance and Destiny in Troilus and Criseyde and the Knight’s Tale

4. Chaucerian Themes and Style in the Franklin’s Tale

5. Anger and “Glosynge” in the Canterbury Tales

6. The Authority of the Audience in Chaucer

7. Parents and Children in the Canterbury Tales

8. Satisfaction and Payment in Middle English Literature

9. Price and Value in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

10. Courtly Aesthetics and Courtly Ethics in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

11. Sir Gawain and the Romance Hero

12. Knightly Combat in Malory’s Morte Darthur

13. “Taking the Adventure”: Malory and the Suite du Merlin

14. The Narrative of Distance, The Distance of Narrative in Malory’s Morte Darthur

15. Malory and the Grail Legend



What People are Saying About This

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“The essays in Life in Words are models of sensitive close reading, impeccable scholarship, and beautiful and accessible writing. Mark David Rasmussen has made an intelligent and coherent selection from Jill Mann’s publications and manages both to introduce the individual pieces and to indicate the achievement they represent.”

Derek Pearsall

“Jill Mann is the best reader and critic of Middle English literature of her generation. I have never read anything by her which left me unenlightened or uninspired by the activity of intelligence at the highest level. Rasmussen’s introductory essay is not only a measured assessment of Mann’s work as a critic: it also places that work, with great skill and learning, in the context of the history and development of criticism over the past thirty years.”

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