Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Timely Brits

This was in today's news in KentOnline--

Chaucer statue unveiled in Canterbury

A £200,000 bronze statue of Canterbury Tales author Geoffrey Chaucer will be unveiled in the city today.

It is the result of a 10-year campaign by the Canterbury Commemoration Society to acknowledge Geoffrey Chaucer’s important association with the city.
The life-sized figure, sculpted by Sam Holland, is being sited in the Three Cities Garden in Best Lane.

The sculpture will also feature the faces of city personalities around a plinth representing characters from his greatest work, which tells the stories of pilgrims travelling from London to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

It follows months of research with historians and costume experts to ensure the period detail, including his accessories, are correct.

Sam’s interpretation depicts Chaucer representing himself as one of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales, part kindly old man and part all-seeing soothsayer.

The cost has been met through fundraising, donations, grants and the £5,000 sponsorship of each of the 29 characters’ faces, which include Canterbury-born actor Orlando Bloom as the Young Squire.

  (The picture of the scale model would not copy.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Chaucer Mass 2016

Come celebrate Chaucer at the annual memorial Mass

Join us at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Claremont CA. 

That's at the corner of Bonita and Berkeley. It's Saturday, October 29th at 5:30. The music is from the Middle Ages and Fr. Tom Welbers will say the Mass. See you there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


When I organized my "Chaucer Room," I reserved the wall above my desk for sources of inspiration. I knew I would need encouragement for the road ahead. I posted helpful, inspiring quotes there.
      One of the first little items was my favorite Bible verse: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. I'd found a charming Middle English version--with the thorn (Þ) that became th.

Þis ys  Þe day
           Þat our lord made;
                             be we glad and ioyfull in hure! 

Soon after came a quote from Venerable Bede. It expressed precisely how I felt about studying Chaucer. I knew many students who were content to scan the Tales in Middle English--or even to read Modern English versions instead! I already recognized what they were missing.
Bede, addressing a medieval audience, said, Reading should be slow and attentive, laborious, intent on the reward contained in the underlying meaning. This is my work-style in a nutshell, taking each word as important, with the Middle English Dictionary at my side.  Bede's recommendation  naturally became the perfect epigram for my first book-- Chaucer's Host.
     Of course inspiration can come from less-than-serious sources. I used to refer to myself as an "intellectual bottleneck." This cartoon doesn't exactly reflect that, but it always made me laugh and renew my determination to say what needed to be said. 

Peter Elbow helped me overcome the bottleneck. We'll get to him soon.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

The hazard of the spoken word

My son lives in Houston. (I'm near LA.) He is an avid reader and often recommends books to me. When he said the book he had just read was unusual and captivating, upon hanging up my landline, I connected to Amazon. What's quicker, easier and more addictive than one-click? Anyway, I ordered the book--Bell Weather.

It arrived in a couple of days. The endpapers show a map with islands and oceans as a fictional region of the earth. The story had that touch of magical realism I'd found in Xavier Garcia Márquez. It surely was odd and entertaining, but I had to admit to my son, "I've never figured out what the title means."
     He was visiting California at the time. His brows furrowed as he responded, "But it explains the meaning when the sheep arrive."
     My wide-eyed reaction: "The sheep?"
     He asked to see the book, leafed through a few pages, then whipped out his smartphone to order a "replacement" for me. The mysterious confusion I felt was relieved as soon as the book arrived.

Moral: Don't have complete faith when you hear the title; get the author's name as well.

Friday, June 10, 2016

What can we learn from a hollyhock?

Here's a "volunteer." A seed fell at the edge of my sidewalk and decided to "bloom where it was planted" as the wise saying goes. This is Southern California.  We haven't had any rain to encourage it--but that didn't stop it.  It's only six inches tall but blooming as if it was six feet tall.

That's Courage and Determination. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Cook, my very favorite

I was going to write about all the pilgrims, but when a friend got me talking about the Cook, writing about him was irresistible. No Canterbury Pilgrim is more creative. What fun the poet must have had! We'll ignore editors "improvements" that actually distort Chaucer's own words.
     First we'll talk about the introduction of the Cook and his companions in the General Prologue. Then we'll look at the Cook's Tale. The Cook is the astrological sign of Cancer. This is clear from Chaucer's description of the "mormal," the oozing, incurable sore on the Cook's leg. That's about as close as you can get to simply using the word cancer.
     This sign has no prominent stars, so the poet mainly concentrates on the figure of a crab. The one visual heavenly endowment, however, is a modest star cluster called Praesepe which has two meanings: Manger and Beehive. Chaucer capitalizes on both these images.
     At the end of this pilgrim's description, when the mormal is announced, the Cook's expertise in making a fish pudding immediately follows. The dish is called Blank Manger. Such close association is unsavory! The unsavoriness is meant to be noticed. And the chosen recipe is an opportunity to mention the star cluster.
     If these lines indicate the sign's identity, then who are the Guildsmen and why are they necessary? I think they are "necessary" mainly because of Chaucer's wit. A Biblical tradition says, "The body is one, and hath many members." And an Aesop fable popular in the Middle Ages is called, "The Belly and Its Members." This is the picture Chaucer brings to life. One of Chaucer's contemporaries even refers to the belly (stomach) as the "cook" for the entire body.
     Now, if the Cook is the belly, the five Guildsmen must be its members. A group of five--5 pairs of legs--is, again, a "necessity."
                              And they were clothed all in one livery
                              Of a solemn and a great fraternity.
When we are told that these five men are clothed all in one livery, Chaucer means exactly that: five men inside one suit. This is another line meant to get our attention. "Clothed" can mean covered, as incarnation expressed as "to clothe in flesh." And Chaucer's use of livery can be seen as ambiguous where the 14th-century "livery" can refer to a living being. Then the line can be understood to say, "the Guildsmen were enveloped as one living being" in the great fraternity of Crustaceans.
     Although confident that I had properly recognized the sign of Cancer the crab, the remainder of the introduction of the Guildsmen confused me. Why did Chaucer say their "wives" have cloaks "carried royally"? That is, their garments had trains. The answer to the question, thank goodness, came from a picture of a doorjamb at Notre Dame in Paris. The twelve signs of the zodiac are carved there as heavenly bodies created by God. Surprisingly, Cancer is not a crab but a lobster, a figure with a substantial part trailing behind. Why? Because in Latin, which was common knowledge among the educated, both crab and lobster are expressed by the word cancer.

There is an abiding problem regarding pilgrims who tell no tale, the five Guildsmen, for example. Here's the answer to that problem: It's not Chaucer's failure. Their only function is to complete the picture of the sign! During the pilgrimage, the five men never utter a word. They are never spoken to or about. The Cook and his companions function as one. The Cook alone represents Cancer throughout the Tales.

To amuse his fellow Canterbury Pilgrims, the Cook tells a "litel jape," a little joke. Remember the star cluster Praesepe that means Manger also means Beehive. That's what the joke is about. The humor relies on the fun of a beast fable, in which correspondences are found between the behavior of animals and behavior or men. Clues abound. The Cook speaks not of an apprentice cook but of a victualler, a gatherer of foodstuffs. The apprentice is brown as a berry, a proper short fellow who is like a hive full of honey and merry as a bird in the woods. That's a great description of a medieval English brown bee. But he's not just any bee--he's a good-for-nothing drone. He's called "Perkyn Revelour" (Perkin Reveler) because he enjoys reveling with his kin; the story bears this out. (Picture a swarm.)
     How appropriate for a cook to joke about a bee! Honey was a coveted cooking ingredient in Chaucer's day. Everyone knew about industrious worker bees, worthless drones, the normal--but sometimes temperamental--movements of swarms. Lazy drones and robber-bees consume disproportionate amounts of honey and spend their days in carefree living and thievery. Chaucer doesn't hesitate to describe actual bee activity when he says Perkyn and his accomplice suck whatever they could steal or borrow!
     The story ends abruptly with the introduction of the accomplice's wife who had a shop and "swyved" for her sustenance. Her "swyving" identifies her as a prostitute. An alternate 14th-century term would be quene. That's a strong clue for a "queen" bee and is enough to give away the point of the joke.
     All that's lacking is the reaction, the laughter, of another pilgrim who has caught on to the joke.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fabric windfall!

I'm here to explain my recent absence. About a month ago a ladies group at church received a donation of fabric. That really doesn't say it adequately. The "donation" needed 2 SUVs to transport it! I got involved in sorting it all out, box after box of it. Very little of it was more than 1 yard long. Many "projects" had been started and left unfinished.  hmmmm  It took a bit of ingenuity to figure the most efficient way to use it all.
     So, fast forward a week or so, after the rest was distributed to willing workers, I inherited the  swatches of fabric that were less than 1/2 hard. What do you do with many, MANY pieces of fabric less than 1/2 a hard long? Well, I make quilts. That's where I've been spending my time--in my workshop making quilts. They'll be donated to a charity to be given to those in need. I'm in my element and enjoying myself.
     But I promise I'll soon continue examining the "details" that show the journeyers to be--as Donald Howard says-- "individuals, but never Pilgrims".

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's ALL squint

Let's pursue Howard's fascinating conclusion we dealt with last time: "The pilgrimage is eerily symbolic when you squint and see the whole." Let's see how much my vision of the tales agrees with Howard's symbolic "idea."
     Scholars generally take bits and pieces of the Tales to present their opinions--you get the feeling that it's just a bunch of fragments strung together. And there is disagreement about the order in which they are strung! It's almost unique for Howard to "see" Chaucer's idea as one unit--an oddly designed unit, but a unit, nevertheless.

Howard insists that Chaucer "had a far more complex idea." (The Idea of the Canterbury Tales)
     Instead of seeing the Tales as a collection Chaucer put together from various sources as just an entertainment, Howard feels a complicated structure behind the surface. This, of course, if you've been reading earlier entries in this blog, is precisely what I see--a splendid, complex creation on two levels.

The "initially announced plan" of two tales going and two on the return did not happen. It was a revelation to be told by Howard to "consider this failure of the plan a feature of the story, not a fact about the author's life"!
     Many theories have been offered to justify the deviation: Chaucer changed his mind, thought better of it, died, etc. Yet Howard's remarkable "idea" says abandoning the plan was intended as part of the creative scheme!

With this "idea" in mind, we can read the book "as it is, not as we think it might have been." Howard proposes--"It is unfinished but complete."
     Fragmented criticisms and "corrective" measures taken by editors leave us with a feeling that the  Tales is a work-in-progress needing improvement.  Howard, instead, claims the "apparent" mistakes are intended. If we do not understand what is given us, it is not Chaucer's "fault." It is our erroneous expectation.

Howard's startling assertion says the details that describe the pilgrim's clothing "characterize them as individuals [but], never as pilgrims."
     This recognition clears the way for the alternate identities I see. Creative details are clues to the hidden personalities--a "man" with wide black nostrils! (Miller 557); a nun whose motto is "Love conquers all"! (Prioress 162) These are some of the features that point to traditional images of celestial figures. Other clues identify dominant stars of zodiac depictions. A favorite of mine is the character whose eyes twinkled in his head as do the stars in the frosty night (Friar 226-27). (See my blog series of entries "Written in the Stars.")

"Not a word is said of any religious observation . . . shrines along the way are never mentioned."
     Again, Howard draws attention to a significant omission.  Not only were shrines not mentioned, but there is not a word of road conditions or weather, and no glimpses of the countryside. This lack allows the covert journey to be celestial rather than earthbound.
     Modern scholars have calculated realistically how long the journey to Canterbury would take. But calculating time spent on the road is contrary to Chaucer's cover scheme that has, by the evidence, no road at all.

Again, Howard guides our thinking. The Canterbury Tales "was experienced differently in the fourteenth century from the way it is experienced now." For example, Chaucer's "visual images would spring naturally from the surfaces of the narratives creating associations and meanings at the deepest level of consciousness"--associations modern readers may not recognize at all. Picture this--As the pilgrims set out, the Host "gathered them as a flock." Were you aware of the shepherd image there?
     Another area of fourteenth-century difference immediately comes to mind: the medieval concept of Time. The Middle Ages saw Time as a circle. Anticipating the closure of the circle--the end of Time--is detailed in the prologue to the final tale. (These details are generally assumed to be an astrological error, but see my blog entries for July 2013.)

We thank Howard for an important medieval mindset: "Life as a pilgrimage, was a commonplace"--a metaphor of life as a one-way journey to the Heavenly Jerusalem.
     A religious tone naturally permeates a pilgrimage. The final tale, the Parson's Tale, is a recognized examination of conscience. To paraphrase the Parson's introduction, "I will tell a tale to knit up this feast and make an end . . .  to this glorious pilgrimage to celestial Jerusalem (46-51).

Howard emphasizes that with "all the talk just outside Canterbury about knitting things up and making an end, one assumes the work is over." How can we ignore that Chaucer intends this to be the end of the journey? Howard boldly asserts that Chaucer, "far from having 'changed his mind,' never had any idea of depicting the return journey. The one-way 'pilgrimage of human life' was a conventional metaphor, and would have been an effective frame for the work."
     In truth, the unit of the Tales is an efficient one-day, one-way journey beginning when the sun rose and ending when the gathering darkness signaled the end of the life of man.

Though Howard recognizes the presence of a sub-structure--the improper "pilgrims," the cohesion of the presentation, the appropriateness of a one-way journey--he does not cross the line to the "eerily symbolic" journey of the celestial figures. Howard's "idea' was produced in the 1970s. My insight was not published until the 1990s. It is my fond hope that, had Donald Howard compared my idea with his, he would no longer squint at something "eerily symbolic" but--with eyes wide-open--could see the splendid allegory that had come into focus.

[The book that explicates the entire allegory can be found at my website  under "Downloads."]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Donald R. Howard: the "idea" man

Scholars so often assume that the plan for the Canterbury Tales is the Host's proposal in the General Prologue--two stories going and two stories on the return--and that Chaucer did not complete it for want of time or interest or because he changed his mind. Howard's thesis, instead, is that "he had a far more complex idea and he did in large measure execute it." (The Idea of the Canterbury Tales)
     It was a revelation to be told to "consider this failure of the plan a feature of the story, not a fact about the author's life"! Then we can read the book "as it is, not as we think it might have been." Howard proposes--"It is unfinished but complete." After noting a litany of omissions, Howard's conclusion is fascinating: "The pilgrimage is eerily symbolic when you squint and see the whole."
     Critics often see passages difficult to interpret as lines Chaucer must have meant to delete. We need to give the poet his due; we need to leave room for genius. We need to accept that "Chaucer did not need to finish the tales; what he wrote accomplishes what he needed to accomplish."
     Howard guides our thinking by indicating that the Canterbury Tales "was experienced differently in the fourteenth century from the way it is experienced now." For example, Chaucer's "visual images would spring naturally from the surfaces of the narratives creating associations and meanings at the deepest level of consciousness"--associations modern readers may not recognize at all. The detailed description of the pilgrim's clothing "characterize them as individuals [but], never as pilgrims." Typical rituals were associated with pilgrimages, but "not a word is said of any religious observation . . . shrines along the way are never mentioned."
     It has been a modern endeavor to calculate realistically how long the journey to Canterbury would take. For centuries, however, the idea of pilgrimage "had the metaphorical significance of a one-way journey to the Heavenly Jerusalem: the actual trip was a symbol of human life, and the corollary, that life is a pilgrimage, was a commonplace." This pilgrim journey takes place unrealistically in one day: beginning when the sun rose and ending as the gathering darkness signals the end of the life of man.
     The stories are not what makes the Canterbury Tales so remarkable. It is Chaucer's genius for creating the world of the pilgrimage that is unique and captivating. The poet "adds complexity by having his alter ego perform as the actual teller of all the tales."
     Rather than fragmenting the author's role, as many scholars do, Donald Howard accepts all possibilities regarding Chaucer the narrator as "the man, the pilgrim, or the poet, we never know positively which we are hearing and are not meant to know."
     The Canterbury Tales were not finished at the time of Chaucer's death. It is often assumed he would have changed or added much. Why has the Canterbury Tales been approached this way? "Because of the statement in the General Prologue that each pilgrim is to tell two tales on either leg of the journey. And yet this is not Chaucer's statement; it is the Host's, as reported by the narrator."
     As we arrive at the intro to the final Tale, it should be difficult to ignore "all the talk just outside Canterbury about knitting things up and making an end, one assumes the work is over." It appears that Chaucer, "far from having 'changed his mind,' never had any idea of depicting the return journey. The one-way 'pilgrimage of human life' was a conventional metaphor, and would have been an effective frame for the work."

Thanks to Donald Howard's "idea" we can read through the Tales without the distraction of nagging questions about its oddities. We can simply see many as the yet unrevealed genius of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Monday, April 4, 2016

This was the day!

The Medinas traveled down from the Seattle area--a loooong drive! They used to live at my house, so it was like coming home again. Rachel, the mama, wanted to have a get-together with her other cousins in the LA area. She asked if they could all get together at my house. Could they? Wow! The answer was an unhesitant YES.
So invitations went out, a pot-luck lunch was arranged, and--even though some of the grownups had other commitments besides--we were all together for a grand afternoon.
The Medinas took an early tour of "the village"--that's what downtown Claremont is called--to do some nostalgic shopping.
Here we are back at the house.
All the nine cousins were assembled when they had finally played themselves out.
The back row L to R is Drew, Max, Xavier, Olivia, and Sabrina. The front row is  Lincoln, Sean and Eva. If you counted the cousins, you know there is one missing. hmmmm He's reluctant to have his picture taken, but he was caught unawares while in action earlier. That's Matthew with the dark shirt.
 It was a brief but precious and memorable visit. God bless them all.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Time off

Greetings, everyone. This week is filled with preparations for a family get-together next Sunday.  We expect to have nine little cousins--between six and fourteen years of age--here at my house. Hope to have some pictures to show you on my next entry. The proud parents of all those children are bound to take pictures.   :)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Claudette !

No one could have predicted it. Tomorrow, Claudette will leave for her new home. She'll be heading for Arkansas to spend her days at a lovely estate overlooking Lake Sequoyah in Fayetteville. What a lucky girl. I couldn't be happier for her.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bake sale's comin'

Our annual bake sale is a big effort for all the members of the Franciscan group I belong to. We bake everything "from scratch"--lots of yummy stuff. Much of it has an Easter theme because it's just one week before Easter. Y'all come, if you're in the vicinity.

Where? We'll be in the hall next to the church--Our Lady of the Assumption--at Bonita and Berkeley in Claremont, CA.

When? Sunday, March 20  from 8 AM until 2 PM. Come early for the best selection.

And we'll have more than baked goods. Crafty members are working on their specialties--knitting, ceramics, jewelry, sewing and more. My thing is dolls. I've made some Peggy People,

and some more of the fat little teddy bears,

and one of my clowns--Claudette--is going to be raffled.

What happens to the money we make? It's our only fundraiser for the year. Thirty percent of the money we take in is given to charities. Most are local, but some are connected with Franciscan efforts elsewhere, like the clean water project in Africa. We also provide help if one of our members is in need.
     Hope to see you there.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Today !

Today I have something in common with a piano.  !  !

It's been a great day. Many things to be thankful for. One thing I still look forward to with great enthusiasm is a book--a book about Ovid that Chaucer would have known. References to the book were many as I did my research. I never accessed it because it was written in Old French. I don't read Old French, but a scholar at Baylor University, who does, received a grant to set the book into Modern English. It's been in the works for a couple of years. I will manage to get a copy as soon as they announce it is ready.
     Lord, bless Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray and reward her efforts.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Here's Hershey

Well, Hershey has been waiting in the wings for some time. We had to finish the piece about Angus Fletcher first. Priorities, you know. Hershey is named after a Hershey kiss, of course. I'm not sure the color in the picture does his Chocolate-ness justice. And that's a sparkly silver wrap-around collar. I was going to say that I had no plans for where he'll go--but I sent his picture to a friend. That did it. He'll be her companion come tomorrow afternoon.  I'm always pleased when my dolls find a good home.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Angus Fletcher: Hero

While I'm  thinking about important books, here's one that brought a clear focus to what I saw in Chaucer:  Allegory: the Theory of a Symbolic Mode, by Angus Fletcher.

Let's set the scene for allegory with words from W. T. H. Jackson in The Literature of the Middle Ages, published in 1960. "This feeling for allegorization, for double and triple levels of meaning, is one of the features which distinguish the great works of imagination in the Middle Ages from the mediocre." Allegorical literature, with its cultivated obscurity, was "the most characteristic literary form during the later Middle Ages." These statements from Jackson gave me confidence in seeing Chaucer as a great allegorist.
     However, in 1962, D. W. Robertson, Jr. published A Preface to Chaucer with opinions at odds with the acknowledged importance and dominance of allegory. The title surely demonstrates that its opinions should be absorbed before pursuing Chaucer. Robertson says, "allegory is almost universally regarded with suspicion, if not with contempt." One reason is that "its presence cannot be detected by Modern Philological methods."
     [Decades before, it had even been claimed that Chaucer had freed himself from allegory. Scholar G. L. Kittredge went so far as to say, "Chaucer, they tell us, is very modern. So he is; this crisis proves it." The resolution of the "crisis" was having someone interrupt the Monk's long chain of sad stories to bring an end to it.]
     In the face of such scathing dismissal, Angus Fletcher, in 1964, courageously wrote an entire book about allegory. He demonstrated the purpose served by the form. It's a fascinating must-read for anyone interested in medieval literature.

When the Middle Ages is condemned for its allegorical tastes, it is often because imaginative allegory is lumped with mechanical allegory. The imaginative creates fresh pictures for the mind, while the mechanical starts from an existing story and destroys it to get at something inside. One destructive moralizing example, offered by a Professor Emeritus of UCLA, will suffice.  An erotic episode of "the lover plucking his rosebud," in the Romance of the Rose was moralized to signify "Joseph of Arimathea taking the body of Christ down from the cross." Such a distorted "inner meaning" is bound to prejudice the average reader (or critic) against allegory.
     Fletcher asserts that "allegories are far less often the dull systems that they are reputed to be than they are symbolic power struggles involved with authoritarian conflict." Allegory can serve a purpose beyond entertainment.
     Fletcher tells us, "in the simplest terms, allegory says one thing and means another." Or, "one thing is said in order to mean something beyond that one thing." It is "structured according to ritualistic necessity, as opposed to probability."
     An important aspect of allegory is that once its structure is determined, it must be complete. A variation of "Romeo and Juliet" must have the lovers come to a sad end. Or, if "Cinderella" is the underlying structure, there has to be a Prince Charming. Once the presence of Chaucer's zodiac figures are established, the travelers are all assumed to be cosmic entities. [See blog entries Apr 2012; Jul 2013]

So how did Fletcher's book answer questions I had with what I saw in Chaucer? Here are a few examples:
     There are two scenarios of allegory--a progress--that is, a questing journey; or a battle--two opinions or "good versus evil" portrayed as an actual battle or a debate. Obviously the Canterbury Tales is a progress where the destination is not reached. [Jul 2013]
     The "cultivated obscurity" of allegory is shown in the blurring of time and space early in Chaucer's General Prologue. And though the pilgrims are presumed to be traveling in the countryside, not a word is said of road conditions or weather. [Mar 2012]
     Considering "involvement with authoritarian conflict," when we identify the Host as Christ, the Host's wife is then the "bride of Christ"--the Church. Now examine the purpose of this violent, domineering wife about whom he laments. [Feb 2012]
     Though you could content yourself with the surface story and ignore any hidden meaning the poet's images may nag you. "Why did he say that?" Certain words demand special attention. Fletcher uses the term "conspicuous irrelevance"--words that are outstanding because they seem out of place in some way. Five men are said to be in one suit. [Aug 2013] Only one pilgrim is said to wear spurs and it is a woman! [Mar 2012] Taking note of such "irrelevancies" may bring a parallel structure into focus because these are clues to their astrological identity.
    Another allegorical maneuver is juxtaposing two things that would seem better off separated. Remember the excellent reputation of the Cook who is then immediately said to have an open, incurable running sore. [Aug 2013]
     Sometimes Chaucer's grammar is questioned and "corrected" by editors as when the ever-pricking Thopas hunts a wild deer "for river." Editors suggest it should be "to the river"--which unwittingly bypasses the risqué intention of riving (penetrating) a sought-after "deer."
     When all the characters are recognized, the varying relationships can be understood by "ritualistic necessity." For example, it explains the Host's lack of respect toward the Pardoner [Feb 2013] or the Nun's Priest. [Mar 2014] And we understand the deference shown the Prioress and the Knight. [Mar 2012]
     The point of allegory, such as the Canterbury Tales, is that it does not need to be read with interpretation. [May 2012] But it is "a structure that becomes stronger when given a secondary meaning as well as a primary meaning." The greatness of Chaucer's allegory has yet to be appreciated by the world of academia.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The best laid plans . . .

About an hour ago I gave up. Not permanently. Just for tonight.
     I planned to have a piece on Angus Fletcher to present to the writers group I attend each Wednesday. Well, as I read over what I had written so far it was just a string of information, facts. It had nothing to do with the thrill, the life-changing experience of what I discovered in his book.
     So I’ve decided to  give precedence to Ash Wednesday—which is tomorrow. Maybe the Lord  has something for me to learn from this change of plans.
      Maybe you’d like to connect to  “The Best Lent Ever.”  I tried it last year and it was my best Lent ever. Put this in your browser and you may have your Best Lent Ever. God bless you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hello, Clancy!

A good friend at the writers group I attend brought me a new supply of fabric and yarn to use for dolls. Completely unsolicited. Just a thoughtful and genrous surprise. The friend is Pat Sheehan. So I used some of what she had given me to make a doll for her. She named him "Clancy." Here he is.

Pat was born in Belfast. You might suspect the Irish inclination from the name she gave the doll.
     Another special thing about her is she has written a memoir, a charming memoir, about the transition when her family moved from Ireland to Los Angeles when she was a teenager. Can you imagine the culture shock? We writers looked forward each week to her next installment--learning about life in Belfast and the adjustments necessary in accepting the lifestyle of LA.

The book is still available on Amazon. I heartily recommend it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Terry Jones and Steve Ellis

I checked to see if Terry Jones' Who Murdered Chaucer? and Steve Ellis' Chaucer at Large are both available on Amazon. They are. So that means to me that they would not be hard to find. Neither book is new, but they are exceptional at increasing the perception of Chaucer's image. He was much more than just a storyteller when he lived.

     I've mentioned Who Murdered Chaucer? before. It's an important book; it has an important message. It is NOT a literary look at Chaucer. Far from it. Instead, it creates the milieu in which he lived. And you get a picture of Chaucer the man and how he fits into the forces at work around him. You also are led to ponder a strange lack of information.
     The idea of Chaucer's "murder" started out as a fun piece, an entertainment at a literary gathering. The questions raised intrigued the participants. Several experts from different fields, along with Terry Jones (he of Monty Python fame), felt driven to go deeper and produce a book so their findings and speculations would "shed more light on this rather shady corner of history," as Terry Jones explains in the foreword entitled, "How this book came about."

 The story contained in Steve Ellis' Chaucer at Large is said, by a noted Chaucer scholar, to be "often quite extraordinary and it has not been told before." Ellis' book, in contrast to Jones', IS a literary look at Chaucer. The focus, however, is entirely new. This is not an analysis of the Tales, but a presentation of how the poet's imagination has been adapted in the English-speaking world from the 1800s into the 21st century. Chaucer is found at "the heart" of the literary outreach of our culture. Novelists, poets, authors of children's books--stage , television, radio and film--all find inspiration and challenge in the medieval poet. Ellis finds him "elusive" and "intriguing." As a new collection of information, I found it surprising at times.
     And, if I may digress, it delighted me that Ellis, in his conclusion, touches upon the fact that the Pilgrims never reach Canterbury.  "The Tales does not need 'finishing' because it stands in its present state as 'an artistic unified whole,' its so called incompletion part of a deliberate design." It does my heart good to see it stated so clearly, to recognize the destination as beyond the end of the narration.

The two books are very different. Neither is a formal presentation of research. Though they both are built on research, their aim is to intrigue the general reader regarding Chaucer, the great English poet. Try them. The image you hold of Geoffrey Chaucer will be altered significantly.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Curly works

I tried something new for making curly hair on a doll. I'm pleased to say that it worked out just fine. When I'd finished the first doll with the new style of hair--I named her Elena-- I took it to show my friend Lorraine. As I handed Elena to her she immediately hugged the doll. Well, that's a clear sign that little Elena would have a happy home with Lorraine.

 Lorraine immediately accepted the responsibility.  Makes a "mother's" heart grateful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Celebrating Chaucer in the New Year

It seems worthwhile to assemble my Chaucer possibilities for 2016. After all, that's the passion and purpose of my online connections.
     First that comes to mind is the talk I give on YouTube.

Chaucer: what is hidden in the Canterbury Tales by Dolores Cullen

It's quite popular. My grandson is the producer of the video; he graduated from the Loyola Marymount Film School.
      Also on YouTube is a radio interview: 

                    Chaucer: Dolores Cullen interviewed by Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold, the interviewer, is exceptional. He, no doubt, has read all of my Chaucer books and all the articles I've written! That's obvious from the content of his many questions.

     Then there is this blog:

 It gets hits from all over the world. Chaucer says a lot more than what is regularly taught in classes. It's time we question previous opinions. That's what they are opinions, some published 100 and more years ago. For instance, Chaucer has concealed a whole other world in just the Canterbury Tales. "Discovering" it could give new life to Chaucer--and to medieval literature, in general.
     Finally, if you have a problem finding my Chaucer books to purchase, may I direct  you to my website?

The three books are now online. They can be read--rather like using a Kindle. They can even be downloaded or printed out. And you can easily click to the YouTube and blog entries (all of the above) from the home page.
     I'm planning on making 2016 a great year for Chaucer.

[P.S. You can see the dolls I make on this blog. That's what I do in between my Chaucer thoughts.]