For my money, one of the best essays ever written on Chaucer, which also comments on the highly fictionalized portrait of Chaucer in Brian Helgeland’s film A Knight’s Tale (2001), is George Edmondson’s essay, “Naked Chaucer,” published in The Post-Historical Middle Ages, edited by Elizabeth Scala and Sylvia Frederico (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Here is a tasty quotation from Edmondson’s essay:

What I am suggesting here . . . is that the figure we refer to as “Chaucer” has never been anything other than Chaucer’s “second nature”: the mere relic of a historical being, at once a “life” — or better, an afterlife — persisting well beyond the death of the symbolic forms (the institutions of the late Middle Ages) that lent it coherence, and a symbolic form (a text, an image, a canonical figure), persisting apart from and beyond the historical form of life that vitalized it. One may be tempted to dismiss the Chaucer found in Helgeland’s film as silly, anachronistic, or glibly “postmodern.” Yet to do so is to overlook how the image of a naked Chaucer might serve as focal point for thinking not only about his unusual presence, at once spectral and material, on the modern scene, but also about what it means to say we have an obligation, as medievalists, to the dead.

Go here to read the full essay:

George Edmondson, NAKED CHAUCER

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