Re-imagining Chaucer in the Here and Now
LMH Fellow and JRR Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language Marion Turner has curated a major exhibition on Geoffrey Chaucer for the Bodleian, which was opened by Sir Ben Okri at a special preview on 7th December. ‘Chaucer: Here and Now’, a free exhibition, will run at the Weston Library between 8th December 2023 and 28th April 2024.
The exhibition presents Geoffrey Chaucer as you haven’t seen him before. Not as the “Father of English Literature”, but as a dynamic, global author, whose works have been reworked and reinterpreted over time and around the world. Each generation reinvents Chaucer, taking inspiration from his work, and finding new meanings.
Drawing on material ranging from the earliest known manuscript of 'The Canterbury Tales' to contemporary adaptions in theatre and film, this exhibition explores the many creative responses to Chaucer and asks why this medieval author still fascinates so many people today. Featuring beautiful illustrations of early manuscripts and rare editions, the exhibition gives an insight into how varied adaptations of and responses to Chaucer’s work have been.
The exhibition has already generated interest outside of Oxford, with the Observer publishing an interview with Professor Turner discussing the purpose of the exhibition, and how Chaucer’s work has been interpreted and used differently over time. The Telegraph gave it a five star review, calling it a ‘superb new exhibition,’ that ‘brings Chaucer into the present day,’ while The Times called it a ‘small but special’ exhibition, commenting on the ‘jewel brightness, the vivacity, the transcendent beauty,’ of the manuscripts on display.
To accompany the exhibition, Professor Turner has edited a wide-ranging new collection of essays, also called ‘Chaucer: Here and Now’, which gives a picture of how varied adaptations of and responses to Chaucer’s work have been, and how they have developed over time. In the book, the reader can find wartime Chaucer, postcolonial Chaucer, feminist Chaucer, misogynist Chaucer, radical Chaucer and conservative Chaucer, among many other interpretations. Richly illustrated with images of early manuscripts and rare editions, and drawing from a wide range of adaptations and interpretations across the centuries, ‘Chaucer: Here and Now’ shows that Chaucer is available for every here and now to remake, rework and reinvent.
Professor Turner commented, ‘This exhibition is about the creativity of readers and how they have responded to Chaucer across time and around the world – from the earliest scribes to Zadie Smith, folios to films, Caxton to The Cachoeira Tales, Brazil to Ukraine. You can watch the animated tales, marvel at the manuscripts, even make your own cartoon pilgrim to add to our pilgrimage wall. Chaucer really is here and now!’
Further Success for ‘The Wife of Bath: A Biography’
In January 2023, Professor Turner published her book, ‘The Wife of Bath: A Biography’ with Princeton University Press. The book has received widespread critical acclaim, and has just been named as a ‘Best Book of 2023’ by the New Yorker, and a BBC History Magazine ‘Book of the Year 2023’.
You can read our interview with Professor Turner about the publication of ‘The Wife of Bath: A Biography’ here.