|A Look at Chaucers Early Work
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The House of Fame before he wrote The Canterbury Tales, the work that has eclipsedfor the general public at leastnot only the rest of Chaucers writing but also the rest of Middle English Literature.
But if most people have not heard of The House of Fame, theyre in for a treat. According to Anne Worthington Prescotts engaging introduction to this poem, Imagining Fame, this early work of Chaucers is a highly entertainingmay we use the term trippy?tale that blends religion and philosophy with myth and fantasy and psychological dreamscape. It shows that Chaucer had a wild imagination and a great sense of humor as well as a gift for adventurous story-telling.
Anne Prescotts Imagining Fame also places Chaucer and The House of Fame in historical context, with grounding in the history of England, and informative background on the world-view of the times, the music of the timeswhich had such a strong effect on Chaucers poeticsand the developing language, Middle English. This new book also gives a brief biography of Chaucer, showing how he fit not only into Englands history but also into the trend across Europe toward the use of national languages in literature.
The author writes in a friendly, sometimes even sassy voice, challenging the academic establishment to lighten up. Her modern English translations of quoted passages from the poem are easy and fun to read. She has also added a bibliography and some questions for discussion.
Imagining Fame ends with a puzzle and an answer to the puzzle. Is The House of Fame an unfinished work? It ends at a climactic moment, or perhaps the moment before a climax, with the curtain rising on an important figure who may reveal important answers or wisdom. But this is often the way dreams end, and Anne Worthington Prescott makes the case that the The House of Fame ends, mid-sentence, on the verge of divine revelation.
About the Author. Anne Worthington Prescott first encountered Chaucer at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland and then at Harvard College. She received an M.Ed. at Boston University. Thirty-five years later, after a career as teacher and community leader, she began to see the magic and hear the music in Chaucers poetry. She is a member of the New Chaucer Society, and has written for Scientae Scholae, an electronic journal for K-12 at of teamsmedieval.org. She lives in Pinole, California.
About the Illustrator. Kathryn Finter is a Canadian artist specializing in fifteenth-century materials and techniques of panel painting and manuscript illumination. She is a member of the Medieval Academy of America and the Canadian Society of Medievalists. She lives and paints in Ottawa.