Marilyn Nelson has won the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, an annual prize recognizing “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Part of Nelson’s legacy is The Cachoeira Tales, her 2005 adaptation of The Canterbury Tales recounting a family pilgrimage to places made holy by the (entire) Black experience in the western hemisphere. In many ways, her reimagining of the medieval pilgrimage helped ignite interest in Chaucer’s work by twenty-first century poets, especially women of the African diaspora.
For a useful primer on this wave of appropriations, see Kathleen Forni’s Chaucer’s Afterlife: Adaptations in Recent Popular Culture (McFarland 2013).
The 2022 NCS Congress featured an inspiring number of sessions with a global or multi-cultural perspective. And a good number of presenters were from non-Anglophone backgrounds, though many were unable to attend in person because of visa, funding, and pandemic restrictions.
Because there’s still a chance for you to view the Congress sessions and uploaded presentations–here’s a quick list of the papers/sessions dealing with Chaucer’s reception, global and otherwise, that I attended.
Jacqueline Burek, “Translating Troilus: The Welsh Troelus a Chresyd“
Louise D’Arcens, “The Kangaroo Kelmscott: Chaucer’s Sydney Afterlife and Australian Deep Time”
Aistė Kiltinavičiūtė, “Reimagining the Dream Poet: Edward Burne-Jones’s Dantean Chaucer”
Usha Vishnuvajjala, “Feminist Medievalisms and Chaucer in Jane Austen Fanfiction”
Wajid Ayed, “Chaucer in Tunisia: 50 years”
Raúl Ariza-Barile “From Southwark to the Citee of Mexico: Producing the First Ever Mexican Translation of The Canterbury Tales”
Lian Zhang, “Translation as Remembering: Canterbury Tales in Chinese”
Yoshiyuki Nakao, “How to Translate Chaucer’s Multiple Subjectivities into Japanese: Ambiguities in His Speech Representation”
Amy Goodwin, “Chaucer in the New York Times”
Jonathan Hsy, “Racial Displacements: Chaucerian Poets of Color and Critical Refugee Studies”
Jamie Taylor, “Indigenous Studies and a Global Middle Ages”
Candace Barrington, “Comparative Translation: Possibilities and Limitations”
Jonathan Fruoco, “Is there an Embargo on Chaucer in France?”
Marion Turner, “The Wife of Bath’s European Lives”
“Where Medieval Studies Joins Up,” a plenary conversation chaired by Jonathan Hsy featuring
Anthony Vahni Capildeo
Ananya Jahanara Kabir
The Refugee Tales, with Patience Agbabi
The Polyglot Miller’s Tale Reading
If you were a registered participant at the Congress, you can view the sessions and individual papers.
Go to ncs2020.net
Click on Attendee Hub and log in just as you did during the Congress
Select “All Sessions” on Schedule pull-down menu (upper)
Search for the speaker’s name, then follow the links to replay either the session or watch the uploaded presentation.
These links will remain available until mid-October.
In a happy reprise of the spontaneous (but very jolly) Polyglot Reading of The Miller’s Tale at the 2014 NCS Congress in Reykjavik, 14 Global Chaucerians gathered to read the tale in 9 languages (in addition to Middle English).
1.3109-3135, Middle English, Candace Barrington and Jonathan Hsy
1.3136-3166, Welsh, Jacqueline Burek
1.3167-3220, Spanish, Amanda Gerber
1.3221-3287, Lithuanian, Aistė Kiltinavičiūtė
1.3288-3338, 19c French, Juliette Vuille
1.3339-3398, German, Lucy Fleming
1.3399-3467, Arabic, Wajih Ayed
1.3468-3525, Italian, Sarah McNamer
1.3526-3588, Hebrew, Noa Nikolsky
1.3589-3656, German, Lucy Fleming
1.3657-3726, French, Jonathan Fruoco
1.3727-3785, Korean, Mariah Min
1.3786-3854, Italian, David Wallace
Some special highlights include
the premier of Jonathan Fruoco’s new French prose translation of the tale,
the first ever translation into Welsh thanks to the intrepid Jacqueline Burek,
the introduction of Korean slang and dialect into Mariah Min’s reading,
Lithuanian (need we say more?),
a sequenced chorus of Alisoun’s “Tehee” (3740), and
a recording, now streaming and available through mid-October to those who registered for the congress (either in person on online).
And, of course, lots of laughter.
In addition to thanking our fabulous readers (both new ones and repeat participants) for their full-hearted participation, we owe our deep gratitude to
Mary Flannery for initially inviting us to resume the reading at the soon-to-be postponed 2020 Congress,
Julie Orlemanski and Phil Smith for juggling schedules to ensured the reading happened in 2022,
Patience Agbabi and other members of our audience for supporting us with their presence and laughter,
Annette Kern-Stachler, Lian Zhang, Raúl Ariza-Barile kept away by the complications of pandemic-era travel, and
Durham University’s excellent tech staff who smoothly orchestrated the recording and transmission of the event.
If you were a registered participant at the Congress, you can view the streaming broadcast of the reading.
Go to ncs2020.net
Click on Attendee Hub and log in just as you did during the Congress
Select “All Sessions” on Schedule pull-down menu (upper)
Search “polyglot,” then click on “Polyglot Miller’s Tale Reading”
Click on “replay”
After lots of preliminaries, the actual reading begins at 17 minutes and ends at. 59.30
Plans are already brewing for 2024. Let us know if you’re interested in participating at globalchaucers at gmail dot com.
The English Department at Saint Louis University has a full-time, tenure-track medieval literature position. It carries a 2/2 load at the rank of assistant professor. They are particularly interested in candidates with research interests in gender and sexuality or the global Middle Ages. This is a great opportunity!
Dr. Ruth Evans will chair the appointing committee.
Please note the search’s has an accelerated timetable: review of applications begins September 15, 2022 and will continue until the position is filled. First round of interviews via Zoom is planned for early November. They hope to appoint the new hire during the fall 2022 term.
Currently, we have volunteers to read in French, Italian, German, Polish, Arabic, Hebrew, Dutch, and (be still my heart!) Lithuanian. We’d still love to add more languages, such as Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Malayalam, Frisian, Romanian, Norwegian, Serbian, Icelandic, Spanish, Turkish, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Finnish, Estonian, Greek, Russian, Ewe, Farsi, Czech, Taiwainese, and any other language into which the tale has been translated. (For help finding a translation, contact us or refer to our list of translations; if you know of others, please let us know.)
Depending on the total number of volunteers, participants will be asked to read around 50-60 lines apiece.
If you’d like to be part of the fun, please email us (GlobalChaucers at gmail dot com) with this info:
which language(s) you’d like to read in;
if you possess a copy of The Miller’s Tale in that language (if you don’t, we likely can send a copy to you); and
if you consent to being recorded (both audio/video).
In mid-May, we will send your line assignments (and a copy of your lines, if requested).
We appreciate your patience as we pull together what promises to be a lively event.
This past weekend (8-9 April) I attended the glorious Sewanee Medieval Colloquium organized in exquisite fashion by Stephanie Batkie at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Among the colloquium’s many highlights, getting to meet and talk to Jos Charles was at the top for me.
I became aware of Jos Charles and her verse when feeld appeared in 2018. As I describe in a forthcoming article, I immediately purchased the book but let it languish on my desk as other projects took precedence. When I finally read it a few months later, I was astonished by its powerful engagement with Middle English semiotics and semantics as a way to allow readers to understand one trans woman’s experience.
Jos Charles’s invitation to gain new knowledge “out of olde bokes” (PF 24) is worth accepting.
This story is not global. And for that matter, it’s not very Chaucerian. And yet, it’s a good story about the ways Chaucer’s name and his Wife of Bath were used to promote cultural projects that had almost nothing to do with either Chaucer or his Tales.
In 2016, I published an essay in Chaucer on Screen, a collection edited by Tison Pugh and Kathleen Kelly. Titled “Lost Chaucer: Natalie Wood’s ‘The Deadly Riddle’ and the Golden Age of American Television,” the essay describes my search for a television episode cryptically referenced in a Natalie Wood biography as a “now-lost” 1955 film, The Wife of Bath, starring Ms Wood. My essay documents the few ephemera and paratexts I could locate, and it records my efforts to imaginatively recreate the film’s contents.
In December 2021, I received a surprise email from Jeff Joseph, a semi-retired motion picture archivist. Lately he has been restoring old television material, and he had recently completed work on “The Deadly Riddle.” The restored episode can now be watched online: https://youtu.be/iH6Yd0qlD3w .
When I shared the link with Gil Gigliotti, my colleague who initially alerted me to the toss-off line in Wood’s biography, I forewarned him that “the newspaper promos and ads were all so wrong.” He reminded me that ads aren’t supposed to be summaries, though noting that he did “find the ad with the hag picture effective (if way misleading). The voiceover ad needs a ‘spoiler alert’!”
So if you have time to spare and want to see how Chaucer was mangled in the 1950s, check out “The Deadly Riddle.”
On 19 March 2022, Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China) hosted the “Glocal Online Forum on Foreign Literature and Comparative Literature.” (“Glocal” is not a typo but a portmanteau formed from “global” and “local.”) Home to the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the university conducted the entire event online because much of China is once again in full lockdown. The conference organizers had to limit the zoom participants to 40—we were told that having a Zoom account is a privilege available to only a few; most in China gain access to Zoom as users (rather than owners)—but we were told that it would be streamed to around 1000 attendees.
After generous welcome speeches by three Zhejiang dignitaries—Dean Dong Yanping, Vice President He Lianzhen, and Xu Jun (a highly regarded translation theorist)—we posed for the requisite “group photo,” which in this pandemic era meant a screen shot with all video cameras on. This staid photo is my own screen shot of the speakers and organizers from earlier in the proceedings.
I shared the English-language keynote session with Jean Howard (Columbia University) and Wang Ning (Shanghai Jiao Tong University). There was no Q&A; however, we did receive warm praise from our moderator, Prof. Guo Yingjian, for adhering to the time limit. Though this might seem like damning with faint praise, anyone who has organized a conference knows better. Staying within the prescribed time limit can be the hardest part of giving a talk. Our moderator clearly appreciated that all three of us made that effort, and I appreciate being recognized for my own effort.
After the keynote session, the rest of the conference resumed in Mandarin Chinese, so the English speakers were invited to log off. Before I called it a night, I joined the streamed version. Wow! What a difference! Yang Hullin, the featured speaker, appeared in the lower right corner (in a very comfortably appointed room—no blue zoom background for him) with a written version of his talk scrolling and filling half of the screen. Encircling him and his script were multiple chats and animated images contributed by the session’s 800+ participants. This multimodal, colorful, and very busy screen turned the usual somber atmosphere of an academic conference to something akin to a Pachinko parlor. Occasionally, keywords would skip across the top; this screen shot captures “material turn.” I have no idea what was being said, but I am certain the conversations were lively.
On 11 March 2022, for the first time since the MLA Conference in January 2020, I presented at a conference. When Lauren Van Nest (representing the Medieval Academy of America’s Graduate Student Committee and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Medieval Colloquium at UVa) contacted me in May 2021 about joining a roundtable titled “Going Digital and Online: Opportunities for Sharing Graduate Student Research,” the world was opening up and travel was beginning to resume. I assumed that I would travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, and present in person.
As it turns out, the conference had to limit the number of in-person participants. I did not attend in person, so my first conference presentation in two years was virtual. From what I could observe, the program committee co-chairs—Bruce Holsinger, Deborah McGrady, and Eric Ramirez-Weaver—showed what can be done with a hybrid format. Everything wasn’t perfect, but I appreciated that many of us (both there and virtually) had an excellent conference experience.
The roundtable I joined was moderated by Reed O’Mara, organized by Katherine Churchill, and chaired by Lauren Van Nest. It featured six speakers: Candace Barrington (“Publishing Online and Global Conversations”), Jack Chen (“Early Career Publications: Then and Now”), Danièle Cybulskie (“The Medieval has Two Faces”), Anne Le (“Comitatus: Insights from a Graduate Student Journal Editor”), Aylin Malcolm (“Podcasting for Postgrads”), and Sam Truman (“Between the Classroom and the Gallery: Publishing Opportunities for Graduate Students in a Museum Setting”). Each presentation was focused and insightful. And the discussion itself was lively and informative.
My contribution focused on two online platforms I’m associated with: New Chaucer Studies: Pedagogy and Profession and the Global Chaucers project. In addition to providing a brief history of each, I also shared research and publication opportunities each provided. Because it’s always good to remind our readers about what Global Chaucersdoes and provides, here’s the outline of my Global Chaucers overview.
The most immediately available resource that Global Chaucers provides is its List of Lists. Our online bibliography identifies (and sometimes provides links to)
Translations into over 50 languages
Novels, verse, and other retellings
Recordings of Chaucerian texts
In addition to the List of Lists, we maintain a blog that publishes
Short essays about global Chauceriana
Announcements about new translations
Notes & queries
Notices of forthcoming conferences
Call for papers
Descriptions of new scholarship
We invite you to send us discoveries and announcements that would interest our global community.
You can also become involved with the project by
Considering the role of Global Chaucers’ translator interviews in your scholarship
Incorporating Global Chaucers’ student surveys in your teaching
Sharing what you learn from the Global Chaucer resources with a blog posting
Joining the conversation: twitter and fb
Subscribing to updates
In whatever way you decide to engage with the Global Chaucers project, you can be part of proven efforts
to amplify voices outside the Anglophone inner circle
to transform and redefine the field of medieval studies
to think across institutional boundaries
to recognize the limits of seeing the past through only a Eurocentric lens.
Additionally, we invite your ideas for creating more robust networks that facilitate research and support graduate students and early-career medievalists, especially those who are geographically or institutionally marginalized. We want to help scholars make their research more visible and to create global opportunities for collaboration. Please send us your ideas!
In sum, I left the roundtable excited by the variety of opportunities we now have for sharing our research. I’ll continue to follow medievalist.net, and I’m adding to my listening rotation The Medieval Podcast and Coding Codices: A Digital Medievalist Podcast.
The Chaucer Studio and Global Chaucers will be working together in the near future to provide and create recordings of The Canterbury Tales in different translations. We learned from Michael Calabrese of California State University that “the idea of translating Chaucer in different languages for global access is an inherent part of what we would like to do.” The co-directors of the studio are pleased to collaborate with Global Chaucers to provide more readings of Chaucer’s works in translation.
The first planned recording will be in Spanish, read by Christina Gomez, executive director of the studio.
In the future we will work with interested parties to record either already existing translations or new translations. Global Chaucers and the Chaucer Studio will work together to provide global distribution and access. We are currently soliciting participants who’d like to translate and/or record with us.
The new set of co-directors at Chaucer Studio are:
Michael Calabrese (California State University, Los Angeles)
Tom Burton (University of Adelaide)
Regula Meyer Evitt (Colorado College)
Cathy Hume (University of Bristol)
Joseph Parry (Brigham Young University)
Christina Gomez (California State University, Los Angeles)