Even though I have always done well as a student, there was a time in my life when I did not complete homework assignments on a regular basis. I know this is a shocking revelation – besmirching my academic reputation publicly takes guts! – but it is true. In my younger years, I often managed to maintain a high GPA without study (or even doing many reading assignments – ironic for someone who once thought she wanted to be a secondary level English teacher).
However, sometimes this slacking bit back. In high school, senior year slacking resulted in my ejection from Honors English. The great consequence was that once I was sent to the minor leagues, even though I was behind in my Honors class, I was way ahead of the Competitive College class, so I could continue my procrastination somewhat. I know, I know, but I was only seventeen.
Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was one of my high school nemeses. It would be somewhat redeeming to say that the Middle English tripped me up but in all honesty, I doubt it was even presented in that manner in high school. Perhaps, but it may just be an excuse to make my shirking reading this prime example of medieval literature seem less of an example of plain old teenage smugness.
The Canterbury Tales would not go off and die quietly in the night, however. Fifteen years after I graduated high school, it has returned and cannot be ignored this time. (See, kids–it pays to do your homework the first time around!) I am ambivalent. Torn between the frustration of the added time it takes to digest this masterpiece due to the archaic language (and therefore referring to the plentiful glosses) and, surprisingly, enjoying the essence of these tales. I often have to remind myself that these were written sometime around 1387 because the meat of the matter is that these tales could have been written yesterday. The examination of the three estates and classic medieval material are, of course, hallmarks of the era, but the humor remains–as well as the serious considerations. It’s a confusing situation.
Is it uncool to like Chaucer? Perhaps. But he will haunt you until you crack open his book and delve into his narration so you may as well do it and enjoy the ride.