From 10-15 July 2016 QM is hosting the 20th Biennial Congress of the New Chaucer Society, a forum for teachers and scholars of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400).
Often called ‘the father of English poetry’ because he was one of the first literary authors to write extensively in English, Chaucer was born in London and had close connections with the city, living in a house above Aldgate for some years. His best-known work, The Canterbury Tales, consists of stories supposedly told on a journey made to Canterbury by pilgrims who meet at an inn in Southwark, just south of the Thames.
The New Chaucer Society is an international body, with members from North America, the UK and Europe, Asia and Australasia. Its 2016 Congress will bring together over 500 members for four days of lectures, papers, workshops, and discussion panels. The activities include poetry readings (Lavinia Greenlaw will be reading from her latest book of poetry, A Double Sorrow, which imaginatively recreates Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde); an evening of medieval music by Opus Anglicanum; Patience Agbabi talking about ‘multilingual Chaucer’; and a performance of a medieval play, The Pride of Life, by a theatre company from Toronto (Poculi Ludique Societas). The paper sessions include talks on torture and violence in the Middle Ages, on digital approaches to working with medieval manuscripts and texts, on Chaucer and medieval science, and on global Chaucer.
Mile End resonates with Chaucerians on a number of counts. On the main eastern approach route to London, it was close to Aldgate and Chaucer’s place of residence in the 1370s and 1380s. In 1381 it was the location of King Richard II’s encounter with a large company of Essex rebels involved in what has become known as The Peasants’ Revolt. Queen Mary’s own community of twenty-first century medievalists looks forward to welcoming Congress participants and to introducing them to a part of London rich in Chaucerian associations.