These essays, written between 1937 and 1960, have remained classics of their kind. They include important discussions on irony—its native traditions and its occurrence in early English literature, an account of critics’ appreciation of Chaucerian irony prior to this century, and a detailed examination of four of the Canterbury Tales. The illuminating analysis of the complex use of various kinds of irony in the Miller’s Tale, the Friar’s Tale, the Summoner’s Tale, and the Manciple’s Tale emphasizes aspects of Chaucer’s art that are very acceptable to contemporary. As a result, these essays lead today’s reader towards a fuller understanding of Chaucer’s achievement.
About the authors
Earle Birney was a poet, novelist, and playwright whose experimental instincts drove him to create some of Canada's most diverse and recognizable poetry, including the oft-anthologized 'Anglosaxon Street', and 'David', which is often considered the most popular Canadian poem of all time. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Birney was raised on a farm before embarking on an academic career, attending the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of London, where his interest in Old and Middle English led to a reputation as an accomplished scholar of medieval literature. After serving as a personnel officer in WWII, Birney took a professorship at the University of British Columbia, where he spent twenty years travelling, writing, and teaching. In 1965, Birney became the first Writer in Residence at the University of Toronto, mentoring new, up-and-coming poets and branching out into new and experimental forms.
Birney died in Toronto in 1995 after an impressive career spanning several decades, over twenty books of poetry, two Governor General's Awards, and several plays, novels, short stories, and works of non-fiction.
Beryl Rowland, ed. was the President of the New Chaucer Society, the sole international organization of Chaucerians, and served on the boards of the Chaucer Review and Floriegium.