Chaucer and the Ethics of Time

Author(s) Gillian Adler

Language: English

Genre(s): Literary Criticism

Series: New Century Chaucer

  • February 2022 · 256 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Hardback - 9781786838360
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786838377
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786838384

About The Book

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote at a turning point in the history of timekeeping, but many of his poems demonstrate a greater interest in the moral dimension of time than in the mechanics of the medieval clock. Chaucer and the Ethics of Time examines Chaucer’s sensitivity to the insecurity of human experience amid the temporal circumstances of change and time-passage, as well as strategies for ethicising historical vision in several of his major works. While wasting time was occasionally viewed as a sin in the late Middle Ages, Chaucer resists conventional moral dichotomies and explores a complex and challenging relationship between the interior sense of time and the external pressures of linearism and cyclicality. Chaucer’s diverse philosophical ideas about time unfold through the reciprocity between form and discourse, thus encouraging a new look at not only the characters’ ruminations on time in the tradition of St Augustine and Boethius, but also manifold narrative sequences and structures, including anachronism.


‘An unresolved quarrel about time – whether as the adversary of human aspiration or as the foundation of all virtue and hope – lay at the heart of the medieval experience. This study conducts a spirited and revelatory argument for temporal contention in Chaucer’s poetry and the centrality of time to his poetic design.’
-Paul Strohm, Emeritus Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University
‘This book explains the moral complexity of Chaucer’s thematic and structural uses of time in a patient, learned, timely and oddly thrilling work of deep scholarship. It is a consolation to have this carefully constructed, durable and illuminating study.’
-Edward Hirsch, poet and President of the Guggenheim Foundation
‘Chaucer and the Ethics of Time offers exciting new readings of Chaucer's major poems. Its stylishly written analysis will push readers to interrogate not only the experience of time in the fourteenth century, but also time's use and abuse in their own lives.’
-Thomas O'Donnell, Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies at Fordham University


List of Abbreviations
1 Elegiac Time and the Pleasure of Forgetting in the Book of the Duchess
2 Seeing Time and the Illusion of Control in Troilus and Criseyde
3 ‘What may ever laste?’: Narrativising Transience in the House of Fame
4 The Process of Time in the Parliament of Fowls
5 Nonlinear Time in Chaucer’s Frame-Narrative and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Gillian Adler

Gillian Adler is Assistant Professor of Literature at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She received her PhD in English from the University of California-Los Angeles in 2016.

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