by the shadwe he took his wit (The Man of Law’s Tale, II.10)
Although widely beloved for its playfulness and comic sensibility, Chaucer’s poetry is also subtly shot through with dark moments that open into obscure and irresolvably haunting vistas, passages into which one might fall head-first and never reach the abyssal bottom, scenes and events where everything could possibly go horribly wrong or where everything that matters seems, if even momentarily, altogether and irretrievably lost. And then sometimes, things really do go wrong. Opting to dilate rather than cordon off this darkness, this volume assembles a variety of attempts to follow such moments into their folds of blackness and horror, to chart their endless sorrows and recursive gloom, and to take depth soundings in the darker recesses of the Chaucerian lakes in order to bring back palm- or bite-sized pieces (black jewels) of bitter Chaucer that could be shared with others . . . an “assortment,” if you will. Not that this collection finds only emptiness and non-meaning in these caves and lakes. You never know what you will discover in the dark.
Contents: Candace Barrington, “Dark Whiteness: Benjamin Brawley and Chaucer” – Brantley L. Bryant & Alia, “Saturn’s Darkness” – Ruth Evans, “A Dark Stain and a Non-Encounter” – Gaelan Gilbert, “Chaucerian Afterlives: Reception and Eschatology” – Leigh Harrison, “Black Gold: The Former (and Future) Age” – Nicola Masciandaro, “Half Dead: Parsing Cecelia” – J. Allan Mitchell, “In the Event of the Franklin’s Tale” – Travis Neel & Andrew Richmond, “Black as the Crow” – Hannah Priest, “Unravelling Constance” – Lisa Schamess, “L’O de V: A Palimpsest” – Myra Seaman, “Disconsolate Art” – Karl Steel, “Kill Me, Save Me, Let Me Go: Custance, Virginia, Emelye” – Elaine Treharne, “The Physician’s Tale as Hagioclasm” – Bob Valasek, “The Light has Lifted: Pandare Trickster” – Lisa Weston, “Suffer the Little Children, or, A Rumination on the Faith of Zombies” – Thomas White, “The Dark Is Light Enough: The Layout of the Tale of Sir Thopas.” This assortment of dark morsels also features a prose-poem Preface by Gary Shipley.