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Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

1. The General Prologue and the Marketplace of Ideas

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About this Lecture


In this module, we discuss how the opening lines of the General Prologue represent Chaucer's work more generally and the world in which he lived. In particular, we see how the first lines of the Prologue takes the reader from the unchanging natural world, the world of feudalism, to a busy pub in South London, bustling with members of London's emerging middle classes. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, it is argued, represents this new world, a world of social mobility and activity, where traditional social hierachies are called in question, and where different perspectives are given equal claims to authority - a "marketplace of ideas"


In this course, Dr Marion Turner (University of Oxford) provides an introduction to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The course begins with a discussion of the opening lines of the General Prologue, before going on to discuss Chaucer himself, the so-called 'Father of English Poetry'. In the third module, we look at the Miller's Tale and its status as a "literary Peasants' Revolt", before going to discuss the idea of places and spaces in the Merchant's Tale. The fifth and sixth modules focus on The Wife of Bath's Tale; in the first, we consider the concept of gender and authority in the Tale, while in the second, we look at how Chaucer adapts the popular "Loathly Lady" story pattern in the Tale.


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. (2018, August 15). Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales - The General Prologue and the Marketplace of Ideas [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Turner, Marion. "Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales – The General Prologue and the Marketplace of Ideas." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,