ASU Chaucer event celebrates medieval humor - East Valley Tribune: Events

ASU Chaucer event celebrates medieval humor

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Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2:41 pm

Arizona State University’s English department is about to get medieval.

The 2014 ASU Chaucer Celebration — themed “Chaucerian Comedy and the Senses (of Humor) — focuses on 14th century poetry, storytelling, music and comedy. A series of events celebrating the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, the noted “father of English poetry,” will take place Friday, April 18, on the ASU Tempe campus.

Best known for penning “The Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer is considered one of the most important English language writers. In the Middle Ages, English was the language of the commoners, while typical “literary” languages were Latin, Greek or French. Chaucer’s work changed all that.

According to English professor Richard Newhauser, Chaucer is still relevant today because he was humorous and provided commentary on what was acceptable in society, often making fun of himself.

“Chaucer was genuinely funny, and things we find humorous help define who we are and what groups we can relate to,” Newhauser says. “There is a range of human experience that makes Chaucer a classic, and it is why he is still being studied after 700 years.”

The choice to celebrate Chaucer each April at ASU is an informed one; the earliest archival mention of his name described an Easter clothing purchase in 1357. The duchess for whom Chaucer worked as a court page bought him a cape, new shoes and pants, considered very fine clothing at the time.

The symposium commences with an 11 a.m. roundtable discussion in Hayden Library, room C6A, on the new field of Sensory Studies, which explores how our senses create meaning within culture. Guest speaker professor John Ganim, a Chaucer expert from the University of California-Riverside and ASU professor Robert Sturges, from the Department of English, will join Newhauser.

Other events include:

• 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. - Concert by the Phoenix Early Music Ensemble, directed by Carolyn Rynex, a doctoral student in the ASU’s School of Music; Hayden Library, room C6A

• 2:45 to 3:15 p.m.– Introduction to the Chaucer holdings at ASU’s Hayden Library Special Collections by Katherine Krzys; Hayden Library, room 210C

• 7 to 8 p.m.– Graduate student roundtable discussion, “Medieval Studies and the Humanities as Ethical Education”; Durham Language and Literature building, room 316

• 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. – Screening of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”; Language and Literature building, room 316.

All Chaucer Celebration events are free and open to the public. A full schedule of the day’s activities is available at

If you go

What: ASU Chaucer Celebration 2014: Chaucerian Comedy and the Senses (of Humor)

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, April 18

Where: ASU Tempe Campus

Cost: Free

Information: (480) 965-7611 or

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