Dan Geffrey with the New Poete: Reading and Rereading Chaucer and Spenser

An international conference at the University of Bristol, Friday 11th – Sunday 13th July 2014. Supported by the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers:

Prof. Judith Anderson, Indiana University, Bloomington
Dr. Helen Barr, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
Prof. Helen Cooper, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge

There is a persistent discussion between scholars of the medieval and early modern periods about how both periods are conceptualised and about the interrelations between them. How can reading, or rereading, the connections between these two poets contribute to this discussion? Chaucer is customarily read as a poet of the High Middle Ages, whose valorisation of the vernacular had a profound influence on the poetry of subsequent centuries. Spenser is often read as a poet of the High Renaissance for whom continuity with the past (literary and historical) was a paramount issue. What are the connections between these poets and how can they help to shape revisionist discussions about the periodisation of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? This conference aims to reread the connections between Chaucer and Spenser, in the light of recent critical methodologies and reformulations of historical continuity and difference. The organisers hope to publish a selection of the resultant papers as a single volume, so the following questions seek to elicit contributions that collectively have a sense of coherence, without constraining what contributors wish to discuss.

  • How has the relationship between Chaucer and Spenser been read and how can it be re-read?
  • How do these two poets together help us periodize / deperiodize / reperiodize the medieval and the early modern?
  • What kind of continuum do they share? Is their relationship continuous, radically other, both or neither? Can we reconceptualise descriptions of poetic similarity or difference through discussing Chaucer and Spenser together?
  • Can we think of their connection in terms of anticipation as well as influence?
  • What can we learn about the phenomenon of intertextuality by rereading the connections between these two poets?
  • Does Spenser present us with one Chaucer or many? How has this affected later versions of Chaucer?
  • Do these two poets take analogous approaches to the task of making poetry?
  • How do earlier fifteenth- and sixteenth-century readings and adaptations of the Chaucerian canon affect Spenser’s readings of it?
  • How might a greater variety of critical approaches reveal new connections between the poets? (e.g. ecocriticism, posthumanism, studies of material cultures, studies of the digital humanities, cognitive approaches, histories of the emotions, disability studies)
  • How does Chaucer imagine his poetic followers? What would Chaucer think of Spenser?

Please send 300 word proposals for 20 minute papers to chaucerspenser@gmail.com, including 5-10 keywords highlighting the content of the paper. The deadline for receipt of proposals is Monday, 28thOctober 2013.

For updates and further information, please see the conference website Dan Geffrey with the New Poete

or, follow us on twitter @chaucerspenser