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

11th-13th July 2014, Clifton Hill House, University of Bristol

Confirmed plenary speakers

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

Registration is now open. Please follow the link to access the conference website:

The deadline for registration is June 12th 2014.
To contact the organisers please email chaucerspenser@gmail.com

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 valorization 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 periodization 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, and that the conference will address some of the following questions:

  • How has the relationship between Chaucer and Spenser been read and how can it be reread?
  • 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?

The conference is supported by the Modern Humanities Research Association, The Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities and Arts (BIRTHA), and the Department of English and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol.