1st Edition

Twentieth-Century Chaucer Criticism Reading Audiences

By Kathy Cawsey Copyright 2011

    Shifting ideas about Geoffrey Chaucer's audience have produced radically different readings of Chaucer's work over the course of the past century. Kathy Cawsey, in her book on the changing relationship among Chaucer, critics, and theories of audience, draws on Michel Foucault's concept of the 'author-function' to propose the idea of an 'audience function' which shows the ways critics' concepts of audience affect and condition their criticism. Focusing on six trend-setting Chaucerian scholars, Cawsey identifies the assumptions about Chaucer's audience underpinning each critic's work, arguing these ideas best explain the diversity of interpretation in Chaucer criticism. Further, Cawsey suggests few studies of Chaucer's own understanding of audience have been done, in part because Chaucer criticism has been conditioned by scholars' latent suppositions about Chaucer's own audience. In making sense of the confusing and conflicting mass of modern Chaucer criticism, Cawsey also provides insights into the development of twentieth-century literary criticism and theory.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction: Chaucer, audiences and critics; George Lyman Kittredge (1860-1941): the dramatic reader; C.S. Lewis (1894-1963): the psychological reader; E. Talbot Donaldson (1910-1987): the careful reader; D.W. Robertson (1914-1992): the allegorical reader; Carolyn Dinshaw (1957-): the gendered reader; Lee Patterson (1940-): the subjective reader; Conclusion: readers then, now and in between; Bibliography; Index.


    Kathy Cawsey is an assistant professor of English Literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    A Yankee Book Peddler US Core Title for 2011 'Twentieth-Century Chaucer Criticism: Reading Audiences provides an excellent review of the trajectory Chaucer Studies took in the past century. Cawsey delivers an elegant, even-handed study of six twentieth-century Chaucerians not always treated with the critical detachment she practices in her examination of the ways shifting conceptions of 'audience' shape scholars' interpretations of Chaucer's work.' Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut State University, USA '[Cawsey] has effectively provided accurate and highly useful accounts of the major debates and figures and, as she mentions in her introduction, her audience of advanced undergraduate and graduate students will find this an invaluable introduction to the long and complicated history of Chaucer criticism that might otherwise appear as an impenetrable morass of endless books and articles.' Comitatus 'Each chapter is quite easily read in isolation although the chronological flow is quite brilliant, making this text a welcome addition that helps unpick the scholarly corpus surrounding the works of Chaucer.' Parergon 'Kathy Cawsey's 2011 monograph, Twentieth-Century Chaucer Criticism: Reading Audiences, is an excellent reference for graduate students struggling to synthesize a century of scholarship on Chaucer and his (many) audiences... [the book] serves as an apt reminder that writers, readers, and audiences are all part of a dynamic ecosystem of content and exchange, enriched by the centuries of interpretation that characterize Chaucer's works.' Medievally Speaking