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In his preface to the variorum edition of Hengwrt, Donald C. 3 While there is no doubt that certain manuscripts, Ellesmere and Hengwrt most famously, are thought to be more reliable than others, the fact remains that we do not have any holograph texts of Chaucer’s poetry. One could make the case that the state of Chaucer’s texts is analogous to the state of his reputation: both have been highly subject to interpretation. In the case of the texts, we have a series of manuscripts, each of which acts like a unique set of binoculars, adjusted to somebody else’s eyesight.

As much of the scholarship on fourteenth-century literature and culture correctly asserts or implies, new social and intellectual structures of authority – to adapt Raymond Williams’ sociological term ‘structures of feeling’2 – were fundamentally challenging the shop-worn claims of clerical and aristocratic dominance (in the old Gelasian formulation, clerical auctoritas and royal potestas) and the traditional interlocking structure of society presumed on these bases. Society as a whole had no one secure ‘medium of power’.

C. David Benson and Elizabeth Robertson (Cambridge: Brewer), 55–69. Georgianna argues that sixteenth-century assumptions of Chaucer’s ‘Protestant’ leanings continue in contemporary attitudes towards Chaucer’s religious beliefs and attitudes. Kaminsky, Alice R. (1980) Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and the Critics (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press). A retrospective analysis of the various types of critical response to Troilus and Criseyde during the middle years of the twentieth century. Lerer, Seth (1993) Chaucer and his Readers (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

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