Cambridge don hits back after Chaucer is labelled a ‘rapist’ – blasting criticism of the father of English Literature as a ‘self-righteous assertion’
- Chaucer dubbed a ‘rapist’ and ‘racist’ in ‘New Feminist Approaches to Chaucer’
- Series of articles edited by academics Nicole Sidhu and Samantha Katz Seal
- Former professor at Cambridge Uni Jill Mann has since quit the Chaucer Review
For more than six centuries he has been venerated as the father of English literature.
Now, however, Geoffrey Chaucer has fallen victim to 21st century wokery.
The author of The Canterbury Tales has come under withering attack in a specialist journal from academics who have cast him as racist, an anti-Semite and a rapist.
The portrayal has divided scholars and prompted one former Cambridge don to resign from the publication’s board in disgust at the ‘grotesque caricature’.
The Chaucer Review published a series of articles edited by two academics, Nicole Sidhu and Samantha Katz Seal, entitled ‘New Feminist Approaches to Chaucer’.
Suggesting the time may have come ‘for feminists to move past Chaucer’, they wrote: ‘He is a rapist, a racist, an anti-Semite; he speaks for a world in which the privileges of the male, the Christian, the wealthy, and the white are perceived to be an inalienable aspect of human existence.’
Claims of anti-Semitism and racism arise from the prioress in The Canterbury Tales telling of Jews drinking blood in a ritual – but there is no evidence this passage in a satirical tale represents Chaucer’s own views.
The claim of rape is based on a 14th century legal document in which a woman called Cecily Chaumpaigne agreed to release Chaucer from all actions relating to ‘De raptu meo’.
The article has prompted Jill Mann (pictured), former Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, to quit the board of The Chaucer Review.
The author of The Canterbury Tales has come under withering attack in a specialist journal from academics who have cast him as racist, an anti-Semite and a rapist (Pictured: Sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer)
While some interpret this as referring to rape, others point out the Latin term ‘raptus’ could also refer to abduction.
Criticising the way the rape accusation was first ignored by academics, then treated ‘as a joke’, Professors Sidhu and Katz Seal say scholars ‘should identify’ with Cecily rather than Chaucer.
The article has prompted Jill Mann, former Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, to quit the board of The Chaucer Review.
In a letter to the Times Literary Supplement, she said the depiction of Chaucer was a ‘self-righteous assertion, which dictates to the reader what she is supposed to find in Chaucer before she turns the first page.’
She added: ‘And of course she will not so much find it as bring it there.
‘To approach Chaucer with this mind-set is to substitute a grotesque caricature for the humane values that distinguish him from many other writers of his time, and that students, in my experience, are quite capable of appreciating.’
Dealing with the alleged rape, Professor Mann wrote that ‘there cannot be absolute certainty’ and reiterated that ‘raptus’ had ‘a wide range of meanings’.
Professor Sidhu and Professor Katz Seal had not commented last night.