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Main page » Dictionaries and Encyclopedias » Critical Companion to Chaucer: A Literary Reference to His Life And Work

Critical Companion to Chaucer: A Literary Reference to His Life And Work


Rossignol's Critical Companion to Chaucer is a revised and expanded edition of her Chaucer A to Z (1999), but its contents have been reconfigured to conform to other volumes in the Critical Companion series. Rather than the previous straightforward alphabetical arrangement, the work is now divided into four sections. Part 1 consists of a nine-page biography of Chaucer, while part 2 provides individual entries on Chaucer's works. In most cases, the entry on each work includes a synopsis, critical commentary, subentries for characters within the work, and a narrative bibliography of sources for further reading. (In the previous edition, the latter feature was provided only for The Canterbury Tales.) People, places, and topics are the focus of part 3, which includes real people and places as well as mythological and biblical figures and places alluded to in Chaucer's works. In addition to significant Chaucer contemporaries, prominent Chaucer scholars also appear in this section. Among the useful topical entries are Chaucer's language, Diet in the Middle Ages, and Editions of Chaucer's work. The appendixes in part 4 provide chronologies of Chaucer's life and works, a map of the route to Canterbury, and a selective bibliography of print and Internet resources. Although most of the changes to this work enhance its usefulness, it is not as easy to navigate as the original edition. Unfortunately, the detailed index is not always reliable, which is particularly problematic now that the entries for characters' names appear within the articles on individual works rather than in a strictly alphabetical sequence. Moreover, some entries provide inconsistent information. For example, the entry Blanche of Lancaster indicates that she died of unknown causes in 1368, whereas the entry for her husband, John of Gaunt, states that Blanche "died of the plague around 1369." The Critical Companion to Chaucer is far superior to All Things Chaucer (Greenwood, 2007) in identifying allusions and characters in Chaucer's writings, and academic and larger public libraries will benefit from its expanded bibliographic references, additional critical commentary, and corrected and updated material.

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