Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Alvin A. Lee




As the title of this thesis indicates, I believe that the Canterbury Tales is receptive to both aesthetic and historical approaches. This conviction stems from repeated exposure to Chaucer at different times during the last five years, and from a more recently acquired familiarity with other Middle English and Continental authors Contemporary with him. Although he is no where mentioned in the thesis, I count my reading of Dante as a major force in showing how the medieval imagination operated. When I first encountered Chaucer, however, my knowledge of the medieval period was nil: I was forced then to rely on "aesthetic" avenues into his works. Now, with a small inkling of what "historical" criticism involves, I can still appreciate how valid is the search for image patterns, double meanings, and the ways in which Chaucer creates character and atmosphere. Yet now too, I can see how relevant is the fourteenth century's cultural situation to Chaucer's artistry, for chaucer, no matter how much he transcends them, is nonetheless heir to the ideas and modes of expression of his time.

I have referred solely to F. N. Robinson's edition of Chaucer's work during the preparation of this Thesis, and following him, I have adopted the Manly-Rickert sequence tales, without speculation on the implications of the "Bradshaw shift" for the gist of what follows. Similarly, when quoting Piers the Plowman, Skeat's B-text, as the one with which most readers are familiar, is used. Quotations from the bible follows the Vulgate's rendering, but the revised Standard's version of the pertinent extract is provided in the footnotes. These notes come at the end of the text so as not to distract the reader who wishes to pursue the argument without documentation and peripheral observations. In order to facilitate reference when quotations from Chaucer are introduced, the appropriate page number in Robinsons's text is given.

McMaster University Library

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