Title Background

Chaucer as an English Writer

Chaucer as an English Writer

Contains a section, ‘”Winne Whoso May”: The Economy of Chaucer and L’ (pp. 91–98), that cites the absence of any explicit reference to PPl as perhaps the most surprising silence in Chaucer’s work after the absence of the name Boccaccio. After surveying the similarities noted by such scholars as Helen Cooper, Smith goes on to cite the plowman and the theme of pilgrimage as two additional influences. Chaucer’s portrait of the plowman ‘shows us Chaucer reading PPl even more inventively, virtually in the technical, rhetorical sense of the word inventio: using the poem as a repository of ideas to be yoked together in new, yet recognizable utterances’ (p. 93). Chaucer’s Plowman ‘is a specific and local instance of what L everywhere and massively associates with the very work of the poem itself, with the question of redemption and the possibility of representing in a written work an action that ranges from dutiful agrarian labor to the salvation of the soul, and a figure that ranges from the postplague unrooted laborer to Christ himself’ (p. 95). Concludes by observing that the ‘social plenty’ of the House of Fame, lines 2122–30, adopts the tone of L, one willing (in Jill Mann’s words) ‘to evaluate human activity’ rather than adopt an ironic distancing (p. 98).


The Yale Companion to Chaucer, ed. by Seth Lerer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 87–121.


Smith, D. Vance