The Wife of Bath Spurs Her Way onto the Brazilian Stage!

A Mulher de Bath.102417This week features the premiere of A Mulher de Bath, a stage production based on José Francisco Botelho’s 2013 translation of The Canterbury Tales and starring Maitê Proença.  This Brazilian actor, known for her extensive filmography and her outspokenness, commissioned the play and seems the perfect embodiment for Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, a woman the promotional material identifies as “uma mulher de vasta experiência e de ardorosa oratória” (a woman of vast experience and ardent oratory).

O que quer esta muhler?

The opening performances are this weekend, 28 and 29 October 2017, in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, north of Rio de Janiero.

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Borderlands Chaucer

In the small Sonoran city of Magdalena de Kino, 126 miles due south of Tucson, Arizona, the Church of Santa María Magdalena houses an recumbent image of St. Francis Xavier (co-founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits). Pilgrims who seek help from the saint can ascertain whether their prayers have been deemed worthy of intercession by trying  to lift the statue’s head.  If it moves, their prayers have been acknowledged; if it doesn’t, the saint himself has remained unmoved, their devotion insufficient to merit his help.

Iglesia en Magdalena
Braulio Rivera Enriquez https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/118060568

In a convenient cross-over between saints’ days, 4 October (feast day for St. Francis of Assisi) seems to be a favorite time for making this pilgrimage into the Sonoran desert. Former head of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Folklore Center, Jim Griffith, has compared these autumnal pilgrimages to the springtime pilgrimage in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. He provides this instructive paraphrase: 

When October with its relatively cool winds has taken the real edge off the fierce desert heat. When it’s cool enough that you can stand to walk around outdoors. When the summer rains have stopped and the roads aren’t a sea of mud and it’s pretty easy to move. Then folks want to move.

And, as he adds, “they want to move on a spiritually sanctioned trip.”  To hear Griffith recite these lines from his General Prologue-redux, listen to Pulse of the Planet’s recent rebroadcast of a 1997 show about autumn’s migrations and pilgrimages.

Thanks to our intrepid contact for all things regarding Chaucer in Mexico, Raúl Ariza-Barile (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), for this Borderlands Chaucer.

 

New resource: Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales

oacctlogoNow available!

For those who teach The Canterbury Tales or want to know more about the Tales, check out the new Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales, a free and downloadable resource.

Chapters can be downloaded individually, making it perfect for classroom use or personal edification.

Please let the editors know what you think about it (opencanterburytales AT gmail dot com).  They are especially eager to learn how it is used in classrooms outside the UK-US-Canada-Australasia matrix.

To learn about updates to the Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales, follow it on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OACCT/ .

A conversation with José Francisco Botelho

gaucho-culture-and-chaucer

 

Last February 2016, José Francisco Botelho, Chaucer’s award-winning Brazilian translator, traveled to Connecticut. He was scheduled to speak twice, at Central Connecticut State University on translating The Canterbury Tales and at Southern Connecticut State University on translating Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Though a snow storm that shut down the entire eastern seaboard caused us to cancel the SCSU presentation (and added an extra day to Chico’s Connecticut stay), we were able to squeeze in the conversation at CCSU. There, he and I held a conversation about his translation strategies and how looking at the Tales through the lens of Brazilian-Portuguese provided him insights that English readers might miss.  We arranged to have the conversation videotaped using a stationary camera, and after a delay, I’m pleased to provide a link to the video: Gaucho Culture and Chaucer: Translating The Canterbury Tales for Brazil. 

Chico’s appearance at CCSU was supported in part by the CCSU English Department.

Review of Zarins’ Sometimes We Tell The Truth

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The following review came about when I learned that a former student, Chloe Spinnanger, had a fabulous summer internship at a publisher reading Young Adult novels.  Because Chloe had taken my The Canterbury Tales course in the spring, I thought her expertise made her perfect for reviewing a recent Canterbury appropriation, Kim Zarins’ Sometimes We Tell the Truth (Simon Pulse, 2016), which had just been released in paperback.  A senior English major at Central Connecticut State University, Chloe didn’t hesitate a second, and her review is below.

The center of Kim Zarins’ first novel is a high-school pilgrimage to Washington D.C.

The story opens with “Just a General Prologue,” which serves as an introduction to the students of Southwark High. The trip takes place “Well into April.” Led by their teacher, Mr. Bailey, the teenagers must each tell a tale to pass the time on the bus. The prize for the best tale? A free A in Civics. Some of the tales are nonsensical, others are pipe dreams. But before long, they get increasingly personal. The title, Sometimes We Tell The Truth, encapsulates the core of the story. Some of the tales are purely fictional. Some use fictional tales to tell the truth about someone. Some use the truth as a preface to a fictional tale. While others simply tell the truth.

It isn’t difficult to connect these high-schoolers to their medieval counterparts. The cover and jacket give no hints to this novel being an appropriation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Instead, this connection is left for readers to figure out on their own. But anyone who has read The Canterbury Tales will find these millennial teenagers familiar. The story is narrated by Jeff, known in his school as a future famous writer. So when Mr. Bailey calls his name, Jeff feels the pressure to tell a good tale. But instead of fiction he ends up exposing something about himself to the whole bus. Jeff’s constant over-analyzing of every social situation makes him the perfect narrator for the tales. It also gives him the believable voice of an an insecure, cynical high-school senior with an AP vocabulary. The other characters are easily identified as well. In this appropriation, however, some of Chaucer’s most loathsome pilgrims, like the Miller (Rooster) or the Pardoner (Pard), are transformed into misunderstood, even likable teenagers. Pard is described as a “Pale, thin haired, high-voiced, tiny guy with extreme fashion sense.” His relationship to Jeff: “It’s complicated.” In Pard’s tale, three of his classmates murder each other for wealth. Is this story ringing any bells yet?

Zarins draws on the complexity of Chaucer’s pilgrims to build relationships between the characters in her story, yet these relationships are where her story differs from Chaucer’s original. One major difference between Zarins’ novel and Chaucer’s tales is the communication between characters. In Sometimes We Tell The Truth, interruptions are a constant: “But what do women want?” Reeve interjects during Alison’s tale. “‘Not you,’ Reiko quips, and everyone laughs.” Some tales are even given second endings by dissatisfied classmates. Another notable change Zarins’ makes is in the gender ratio. While Sometimes We Tell The Truth may have more female characters than Chaucer’s writing did, Zarins makes a point to draw more attention the the still-uneven gender ratio: “This name-drawing thing is a joke—We’ve had four men in a row. And now you want five? Lets have some women speaking here. Enough with mansplaining. It’s our turn.”  While this book is aimed towards a YA audience, any fan of Chaucer would find it compelling. It is no surprise that Zarins is a professor of Medieval Literature at Sacramento State University in California.

On the surface, Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a coming of age novel, firmly grounded in the 21st century by a plethora of pop-culture references. But Zarins preserves all of the rivalry, sexuality and even the violence of Chaucer’s original tales. “Bard had the perfect view as Fist came up behind face and shoved a knife under Face’s rib cage. He had the perfect view of Face’s expression, turning from concerned to agonized and betrayed.”  In some ways the modernization of Zarin’s teenagers makes Chaucer’s characters more relatable. The passage of time and change in language can alienate modern readers. Today, many readers might not flinch at the Wife of Bath’s young first marriage. However, it is shocking to read about Alison, as she announces to the class “No one loves sex more than I do, but even I’ve had some bumps along the road.” Before she tells her Arthurian romance, she prefaces it with the true story of losing her virginity to a college guy at the age of twelve. As young Jeff confronts the taboos of rape, gender identity, and death, Zarins affirms that these themes are just as prevalent today as they were in Chaucer’s time.

Chloe Spinnanger is a senior English major at Central Connecticut State University. She has interned at Elephant Rock Books, where she was the initial reader of Young Adult novels for the Helen Sheehan Book Prize.  Currently, she is an intern at Mandel Vilar Press, where she works as assistant to the editor for the Press’s translations of Spanish-language and environmental authors from Latin America. 

Published by: SIMON PULSE 2016

ISBN: 9781481464994

Buy on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Sometimes-Tell-Truth-Kim-Zarins/dp/148146499X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499542415&sr=8-1&keywords=sometimes+we+tell+the+truth