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Chaucer: Historical, Literary and Cultural Context

5. Religion

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we think about the role of religion and the church in 14th-century England, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which Roman Catholicism dominated Medieval society; (ii) the importance of priests and their role in administering the sacraments of the church; (iii) the prevalence of church institutions in both town and country, and Chaucer’s own experience of these institutions; (iv) the importance of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, and Chaucer’s engagement with the idea of salvation in his own writings, including the Parson’s Tale and the Retractions; (v) the prevalence and importance of pilgrimage in Medieval England, and the importance of figures such as Margery Kempe; and (vi) the growing importance of personal devotion, i.e. religious experiences unmediated by the church, and the importance of figures such as John Wycliffe and Julian of Norwich.

Course

In this course, Professor Marion Turner (University of Oxford) explores the historical, literary and cultural context for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In the first module, we think about the literary and linguistic culture of 14th-century England, focusing in particular on the languages that people read and spoke, and what each language was most commonly used for. In the second module, we think about the kind of books Chaucer read – in Latin, English, French and Italian. In the third module, we think about everyday life in Chaucer’s England – what did people eat and drink? what did they wear? what kinds of things did they have in their homes? – before turning in the fourth module to consider the extent to which Chaucer’s works reflect a historical reality. In the fifth module, we think about the role of religion and the church in 14th-century England, before turning in the sixth module to the role of the king, parliament and government – and Chaucer’s own role in relation to each of these.

Lecturer

Marion Turner is Associate Professor of English at Jesus College, University of Oxford. She is the author of a ground-breaking biography of Chaucer: Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton, 2019). This biography focuses on Chaucer as an international figure, exploring his travels, his multicultural influences, his multilingual identity, and the global aspects of medieval London.

Her other books include Chaucerian Conflict (Oxford, 2007) and, as editor, A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and she has published many articles on Chaucer and other aspects of late medieval literature. Marion has received research funding from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Wellcome Trust. She often speaks in the media, including Radio 4, BBC1, Channel 4, and ITV. She has a particular interest in outreach, taking part in Chaucer Days at the Ashmolean Museum and the Weston Library, aimed at sixth form students of Chaucer, and often speaking at schools and colleges.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Turner, M. (2020, April 04). Chaucer: Historical, Literary and Cultural Context - Religion [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/chaucer-historical-literary-and-cultural-context/religion-cceb70aa-fc1f-4da6-9e6c-456278a563d9

MLA style

Turner, Marion. "Chaucer: Historical, Literary and Cultural Context – Religion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 04 Apr 2020, https://www.massolit.io/courses/chaucer-historical-literary-and-cultural-context/religion-cceb70aa-fc1f-4da6-9e6c-456278a563d9