Wallace’s “Italian Inheritance”

I was taken aback when I saw that Wallace had described Chaucer’s poetry as both “eccentric and retarded”. These two words have such strong and contrasting meanings, I was immediately eager to keep reading to see what he meant.

Wallace writes that Chaucer’s preoccupation with social stature could be seen from his “work of genius” The Book of the Duchess, which as we all know already, follows a middle-classed and middle-knowledgeable narrator “trying to make sense of the metaphorical language of the Black Knight”. Chaucer seems to have an evident fascination with class division, as all of our pilgrim characters from The Canterbury Tales are representative of numerous different classes and careers. He really did have a life-long interest about the working man!

As far as Italian influence, Wallace confirms that Chaucer was greatly influenced by the famous Dante. I never met the man, but his work is potent with Italian romanticized style. The House of Fame is sad to be reminiscient of Italian style and contain 3 quite Italian-centered themes, “love, poetry and fame”. As a romance language, it is only appropriate that Chaucer would draw inspiration from it to produce The Book of the Duchess, centered around “love” and “poetry”. Wallace writes, “love inspires poetry; poetry wins fame for both poets and lovers”, a recurring theme that Chaucer interlaces in his texts. I even remember Chaucer referencing Virgil in “The House of Fame”. He clearly has a reverence for Italian poets!



One thought on “Wallace’s “Italian Inheritance”

  1. I was interested in how Wallace writes that Chaucer did not seek to become England’s Poet, nor did he want fame. When I read the House of Fame, it did not occur to me that the narrator in it was Chaucer himself, as Wallace points out. Now that I think of it, it was fairly obvious with the narrator being named Geoffrey…too obvious…, but I digress.

    I was also interesting in reading that Chaucer’s success was due to fortunate timing. For example, the time of his writing and English’s early moldable form allowed him to experiment with words that had more than one meaning, and also his visit to Florence, where there was a commemoration for Dante–with that visit he was able to write his master piece, The Book of the Duchess.

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