Chaucer and Realism

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Chaucer at Galway II: Chaucer and Realism

Chaucer at Galway II: Chaucer and Realism
International two-day conference at the National University of Ireland, Galway
25th-26th June, 2014

Guest Speaker: Professor Paul Strohm (Columbia)

Realism in the literary and aesthetic sense is not a medieval term, and perhaps it is not a medieval concept. But the recognition, perhaps by another name, of Chaucer as a realist, appears quite early in the reception of his poetry, as one reader after another notes his 'excellency of [his] descriptions' (Francis Beaumont), or his 'art and cunning' in comprehending 'all the people of the land' (Speght), or his unerring presentation to us of our 'fore-fathers and great grand-dames' (Dryden). And to his general readership, and to such popularizers as G. K. Chesterton, Chaucer is quintessentially a realist avant-la-lettre.

But scholarship, especially of the past few decades, begs to differ, emphasizing less the universalist, humanist and realist Chaucer, and more the minutely-placed man (and poetry) of his own moment.

This international conference, the second 'Chaucer at Galway' conference, will be held in the medieval city on the west coast of Ireland at the National University of Ireland, Galway. We welcome papers on any aspect of what Erich Auerbach called the 'representation of reality' in Chaucer's work (or in that of his contemporaries). But we also welcome discussions of Chaucer's own immersion in time and space (biographical and/or historicist approaches), art-historical approaches to Chaucer's place in the medieval/pre-modern/modern/post-modern art contexts, and theoretical considerations of the changing meanings of realism (e.g. Auerbach, Ricoeur, Camille, Jameson, etc.), realism and psychology, realism and the representation of social forms, realism and periodization (and anti-periodization) and much else besides. Scholars who would like to speak about Chaucer (or his contemporaries) without reference to the conference theme of realism are also invited to send proposals for papers. We plan to publish a selection of the essays.

Possible topics might include:

Chaucer's historicism

Biography of Chaucer





Medieval philosophical realism and its implications for literary realism

Classical and medieval literary theory that pertains to realism



The work of various scholars and theorists on realism, e.g. Erich Auerbach, Michael Camille, Fredric Jameson

Aesthetics of realism


The mirror and the lamp

Realism and truth/epistemology

Realism in the 'Middle Ages' and periodization

Historicism and realism

A history of realism

Please send a 200 word abstract by 1st March, 2014 to any one of the organizers:

Dr. Clíodhna Carney (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Dr. Frances McCormack (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Dr. Brendan O'Connell (Trinity College Dublin)