Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Censoring Chaucer (Censoring Chaucer: Canonicity and Obscenity in Manuscripts and Print Editions of the Canterbury Tales (c. 1400 - 1831))
Berichtszeitraum: 2018-09-01 bis 2020-08-31
My interest in literary obscenity’s capacity to cause offense arose directly from present-day debates regarding how—or whether—to regulate offensive language and literature. Both within and beyond Europe, we continue to grapple with the question of how best to gauge and forestall the offense that language and literature can cause, whether in relation to ‘hate speech’, racism, and sexism, or in relation to recent debates concerning ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘microaggressions’ within academia. My project constitutes an opportunity to reassess these questions from a new perspective.
The results of my research supported this hypothesis. During my fellowship, I was able to examine 75% of all known surviving manuscript copies of The Canterbury Tales produced before 1500. The evidence contained in these copies (in the form of textual variants, marginal annotations, erasures, etc.) indicated that readers, scribes, and book-owners in the medieval period had mixed reactions to Chaucer’s obscenity in The Canterbury Tales. Likewise, the rare allusions made to Chaucer’s obscene language and content during this period (e.g. by writers such as John Lydgate) indicated that, while this material was clearly recognised as comprising ‘ribaudye’ (obscenity or bawdry; see MED, s. v. ribaudi(e), it was neither universally condemned nor universally celebrated.
Despite the fact that I was compelled to reduce my initially 24-month fellowship to a 16-month fellowship, I managed to stay relatively on track in terms of my plans for the dissemination of my project’s results. I had planned to write 2 articles on my research for submission to scholarly journals. By month 16 of my fellowship I had had 3 articles built on my research results accepted for publication, 1 of them in one of the top journals in my field. All publications acknowledge the support of the European Commission in the form of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. I also presented my research results at major conferences in the UK and abroad, and engaged with the public by means of an interview regarding medieval manners for the NOVA program 'The Violence Paradox', a short essay published in the Times Literary Supplement, and an informal guided workshop on manuscripts connected with my project for the Oxford Bibliophiles' Society (which is open to the public) at the Bodleian Library.