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Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog: Medieval Studies and New Media

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Brantley L. Bryant

“There is a tendency to assume that anything that happened in history is not funny. Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog performs the vital service of showing that the Middle Ages can be fun, and, as a side effect, reminding us that people were as capable … see full wiki

Author: Brantley L. Bryant
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
1 review about Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog: Medieval Studies...

Erudite, earthy, educational, entertaining

  • Jun 16, 2010
Rating:
+3
If you wondered where the sniggers in Chaucer lurk, this may be the book for you. It started on Friendster as a fakester, a grad student's "pop culture parody written in cod-Middle English by a Chaucerian persona." It morphed into a blog followed by thousands of medievalists, "nice smart people," witty pranksters, and professorial jesters. Brantley L. Bryant unmasks himself as "LeVostreGC," or "your GC", and my having to explain that reference exemplifies the fun, and the erudition, of his creation.

The blog and book's title itself combines "hath" in the archaic usage with "blog" as our current use. This chronologically unbound "central conceit" revives Chaucer as participant in this variation on "fan fiction." Certainly the mash-up results-- clever, learned, and engagingly arcane-- merit their own surprising study in this installment of "The New Middle Ages" series from a scholarly press. This anthology recounts the impact of this and related websites by medievalists over the past fifteen years in popular culture, academic circles, and via social networking. Ironically, this book allows us all affordable and permanent consultation of this Chaucer blog, even if Bryant shuts it down.

After introductory chapters study the pros and cons of cultural contexts for this technology, the other eighty percent of these pages share actual contents. Robert W. Hanning (Bryant's professor) teases and torments us with fifteen pages crammed with outrageously recondite puns, limericks, parodies, songs, smut, and bumper sticker slogans. This "comic diary," he tells us, is fifty years in the making. Hanning's section's titled "Chaucerians Do It with Pronounced E's." If that sparks a smile, read on. It's that kind of book. If you lack intimacy with Middle English, Chaucer, and medieval Europe, perhaps these delights may seduce you into fluency.

This humor, overly clever if often challenging (I confess a Ph.D. in the period, yet there's one allusion that baffles me), immortalizes what Chaucer had in common with his followers today. A bawdy, intellectual, humbling, holy, and clerically-tinged relish for the absurd, the lofty, and the ensuing, frequent collisions between our aspirations and our asses. Bryant and his conspirators remind us of the joy of scholarship, too often crushed by publish-or-perish pressures. The success of this blog beyond ivory towers, or flourescent-lit classrooms and dim cubicles, conveys the passion devoted by fans to a time they love.

Imagine if GC discovered "the wondrous messages of the Internet," the spam that these subject lines promise... "A fayre ladye of a far londe offreth me hir loue!"(Sexy female from an exotic realm seeks release.) "An churlish proposicioun of anatomical alchemie," for whatever aphrodisiac augmentation a canon might concoct. "A mightie prince of power asketh myn succour yn matirs financiale!" (Armenia fills in via "hottemail.com" for Nigeria.) "An appeale to the lustes of the bodi!"(Via "Brokers of Onlyne Erotica.") "And last but nat least, fortune doth smile vpon me!" (A chain letter.) Satire proves how our foibles endure.

That sort of sly charm permeates this tribute to Chaucer's appeal and the spell his century casts on those who pursue it today, amidst the same distractions and discussions you and I engage in at our keyboards. It, as with many inspired colloquies in this medium, does cut off suddenly. Perhaps due to the need to rush this into print, or the weariness of the author, or the inherent nature of a blog that whirls as rapidly as its URL taking its title from Chaucer's own dream vision, "The House of Fame," its entries halt, as GC muses over the werewolf craze: "Thys is a bandwagon upon which Ich wolde lyke to leap."

Well, if this all raises a grin, or cocks an eyebrow, check out this one volume from a scholarly press on Chaucer and his era which will spark more risibility than the usual monograph. Combining the commentary on this electronic medium for medievalists to spread both learning and wit with generous excerpts (updated and revised by Bryant for print) from the blog, this volume reminded me how much I enjoyed reading about these lost centuries. This study, in its learned laughter, should be snapped up by anybody who wondered, back in class, where all the devout or dirty jokes in Chaucer were buried. After this excavation, you'll wind up not only reviving them, but inventing your own, perhaps in orthographically-challenged cod-Myddle Englyshe, parchaunce.

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