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Chaucer: A European Life


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About the Author

Marion Turner is associate professor of English at Jesus College, University of Oxford.


"In this fine biography, Marion Turner gives us new images of the poet. Turner's biography takes us from birth to death, but focuses on the spaces through which Chaucer moved, in reality and in poetic imagination. This is a clever move, and Turner's technique means that the poet's works can be woven organically into an account of his life. The book is elegantly written, accessible to the general reader as well as the scholarly specialist. In suggesting further questions and presenting an array of new images, Turner's book gives us back an image of Chaucer more melancholy and mercurial than the cosy figure we thought we knew."---Mark Williams, The Times
"[Turner pays] carefully nuanced attention to the significance of the places visited, to the mixture of cultures they accommodated, and to the range of experiences they offered to a traveller from London. . . . [Turner's] processes of expansion, and of interweaving the life with the works, make for enjoyable and consistently informative reading. . . . Although the book's European emphasis and concluding gestures to the here and now insist on its timeliness, its real focus is on understanding Chaucer's world through the variety of that world's records and its remains, and through the imaginative reflection of it in Chaucer's works."---Julia Boffey, Times Literary Supplement
"Turner charts an uncannily tangible route through Chaucer's life, binding his ideas and poems to precise locations, often enlivening it with consummate detail. . . . Chaucer: A European Life serves as a compass that allows readers to traverse Chaucer's London and Europe. At the same time, reading Turner's book makes us aware of how much our own lives are shaped by the rooms we inhabit and the places we visit. . . . Chaucer: A European Life introduces the 21st century to Chaucer and Chaucer to the 21st century"---Sebastian Sobecki, Literary Review
"A hugely illuminating book. This is one of those studies that academics like to call 'magisterial', but non-specialists will find much to enjoy here too. Turner's writing is never less than perspicacious, and often slyly humorous. . . . What A European Life does particularly well is to situate Chaucer in the largeness and complexity of his world."---Tim Smith-Laing, The Telegraph (five star review)
"Marion Turner has done a magnificent job. . . . I do not expect to see this biography superseded."---Paul Dean, New Criterion
A European Life
feels to me like a radical new take on a man we thought we knew, but whose sophisticated business, military and political career took him criss-crossing the continent."---Andrew Marr, Start the Week, BBC Radio 4
"This meaty new biography is likely to be the best book on the subject for decades to come."---Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review
"A rich, thought-provoking and readable work of scholarship. . . . [Turner] has forged a new kind of biography. . . . Her work promises to be definitive for some time to come."---Mary Wellesley, Times Higher Education
"[Turner's] enormous contribution to our comprehension of Chaucer's moves and maneuvers within his culture will alter scholarly contexts."---John L. Murphy, PopMatters
"Magnificently scholarly."---Sam Leith, The Spectator
"[A] wholly beguiling, original, vividly written appreciation of the hugely innovative author and his rich cultural and political European background. A parable for our time?"---Robert Fox, Evening Standard
"[A] great swirl of a biography, one more capacious and more ranging than any of its predecessors. . . . [
Chaucer: A European Life
] proclaims a hope to bring this canonical medieval poet to life before a broad, modern audience."---Joe Stadolnik, Los Angeles Review of Books
"What wonders Turner can work with a word! . . . . I find it difficult to stop quoting Turner, since she puts the life she is following into such intricate yet accessible prose. You need to stick with this long biography to fully absorb the point toward which she is headed. In other words, it becomes a journey just like the many trips Chaucer took for himself and others."---Carl Rollyson, University Bookman
"Chaucer has not lacked for biographies, but Marion Turner's is of a rare ambition and competence . . . [A] very substantial book . . . sustained by a confident erudition and a powerful and controlled narrative flow."---John V. Fleming, First Things
"Marion Turner's exciting new biography explores in breathtaking detail the spaces and places that shaped the imaginative world of this great Anglo-European poet . . . . this momentous biography gives readers a new perspective on the personal authorial journey that culminated in The Canterbury Tales. Turner has produced a stylishly written and carefully crafted book, at times humorous and always lucid, lively, and engaging."---Clare Egan, BBC History Magazine
"[I]n Marion Turner's brilliant '
Chaucer: A European Life
,' you will learn not only about the life of the man behind 'The Canterbury Tales,' you will learn about the bustling, fast-changing world in which he lived and traveled . . . if you are interested in history, poetry or the man who invented iambic pentameter, it's fascinating."---Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Turner's study is itself like a medieval book. It loves exhaustive detail; it loves a careful architectural design; and it is not afraid of exhausting its readers. It's a biography full of rich detail . . . securely grounded in the material and cultural world, instead of the conventional focus on the singular voice of a solitary poetic genius."---Stephanie Trigg, Sydney Morning Herald
"Marion Turner's splendid new biography of the poet . . . is wonderfully evocative. [A] magisterial intellectual biography."---Bruce Whiteman, Hudson Review
"Marion Turner's ambitious biography is significantly different from others of Chaucer. Its focus on place enables Turner to explore Chaucer's national and international political and cultural background in more detail than ever before."-Helen Cooper, University of Cambridge
"Marion Turner, in this splendid biography, shows us that Chaucer was, to be sure, powerfully inflected by the extraordinary range of places, both English and continental, through which he travelled and in which he lived. She also demonstrates, in lucid and lively prose, that Chaucer was what he read and imagined. Turner enlarges the genre, without for a moment losing her eagle-eyed command of the fascinating empirical detail."-James Simpson, Harvard University
"A hugely enjoyable, accessible, cradle-to-grave biography, bringing us from the baby Chaucer among merchants in Thames Street to the civil servant dying among monks at Westminster. In between we encounter the life, vividly detailed, not just of a brilliant artist, but of the streets and sea-lanes that shaped him. An admirably full life of England's first great Anglo-European poet."-David Wallace, University of Pennsylvania

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