Chaucerian Spaces

Spatial Poetics in Chaucer's Opening Tales

By William F. Woods

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Medieval Studies, English Literature
Series: SUNY series in Medieval Studies
Paperback : 9780791474884, 215 pages, July 2009
Hardcover : 9780791474877, 215 pages, June 2008

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Table of contents


1. Dwelling Places of Chivalry and Nature

2. Alysoun the Housewife

3. The Solace of Open Spaces

4. Symkyn’s Place

5. Changing Places

6. The Riches of Exilic Space

7. The Domestic Market

8. The Exile and Her Kingdom

9. Chaucer’s Spatial Poetics


Examines affect and the significance of space and place in the first six Canterbury Tales.


Chaucerian Spaces explores the affect and the significance of space and place in the first six tales in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Relatively little has been written about space in the Canterbury Tales, yet the rewards for attending to this aspect of Chaucer's aesthetic are considerable. Space indicates the potential for characteristic action, development, and a more profound expression of being. In these tales, characters inhabit a landscape and places within it that express their inner life. Emelye in her garden, Palamon and Arcite in the grove—all occupy spaces or places that manifest social destiny and individual intention. Space and subjectivity change as territories give way to households, and the horizons of consciousness shrink to the core of human intent. Most striking is the transformation of women in place. Emelye, Alysoun, even Custance and the Wife of Bath, dwell in places that express their social and economic potential. They are in place, but place is also in them: they merge in metaphor with the places that express them, bringing the reader closer to the sensible, reflective experience of the medieval subject.

William F. Woods is Professor of English at Wichita State University.


"…Woods's monograph on Chaucerian spaces is a welcome addition to current scholarly interest in space and place … [it] is a well-written and thought-provoking book which combines close attention to language and narrative with the new perspective which space offers as a method of enquiry. This book will appeal to both students and academics and will no doubt stimulate further research into Chaucer's spatial poetics. " — Medium Ævum

"Woods's human ethos, engaging manner, and deep experience with Chaucer's texts, as well as his intimate familiarity with critical conversations of the 1980s and 1990s, animate his first book … Woods provides beautifully crafted and balanced readings for the tales he treats. " — Speculum – A Journal of Medieval Studies

"Chaucerian Spaces is usually thought-provoking, often entertaining … those interested in arguments about space and placement in Chaucer will find it well worth examining. " — Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"This is a thoughtful, well-written study that can be recommended to students encountering Chaucer for the first time as well as to specialists. " — Review of English Studies