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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: September 2013

2 - Brewer's Chaucer and the Knightly Virtues

  • Edited by Charlotte Brewer, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University and a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, Barry Windeatt, Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 34-47
Summary

The consonance between the character of Derek Brewer and the character of much medieval literature was elegantly noted in the fine obituary which Barry Windeatt wrote for The Independent newspaper:

People often commented that it was the moral concerns of English medieval literature – courtesy, honour, loyalty and integrity – that they observed to be lived out in Brewer's life.

(Windeatt 2008)

Here Windeatt evokes the gentlemanly virtues – the remnants of a knightly value-system wherein great store was set by honour and gentilesse (nobility of birth or rank together with the attendant moral qualities of nobility of character or manners; generosity, kindness, gentleness, graciousness and the like). Indeed, it was no surprise to read, in the Telegraph obituary, Derek Brewer being described as ‘a gentlemanly, kindly man’. The thought that I want to offer in this paper is that those same virtues enabled Derek to gain some of his greatest insights into Chaucer's mind and art (to use a phrase in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was producing much of his best work). I am going to celebrate some of those insights – expanding them here, qualifying them there – because I believe they have withstood very well the buffets of changing academic fashions.

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Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Medieval English Literature
  • Online ISBN: 9781782041177
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