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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

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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