Jonathan Hsy (The George Washington University) and Candace Barrington (Central Connecticut State University) formed Global Chaucers in 2012. Internationally recognized as an exemplary model of collaboration, our project has become a valuable conduit for progressive modes of thinking about the global Middle Ages and global medievalism, particularly the translation and reception of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and other European medieval literature. Working with scholars and translators from around the world, we have identified and catalogued appropriations and translations of Chaucer’s verse into over fifty non-Anglophone languages, such as Mongolian, Icelandic, Estonian, Afrikaans, Hungarian, and Farsi. In addition to an initial descriptive essay (in Gail Ashton’s Handbook to Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture, published by Bloomsbury Books in March 2015), a theoretical essay “Traveling Chaucer: Comparative Translation and Cosmopolitan Humanism” (the outgrowth of Candace’s participation in a 2013 NEH Seminar and appearing in a special issue of Educational Theory) explicates the project’s methodological grounding.
In another article, “Global Chaucers: Reflections on Collaboration and Digital Futures” (Accessus 2015), we outlined how our project models new ways for scholars to work together; and Candace’s essay “Global Medievalism and Translation” (published in the Cambridge Companion to Medievalism edited by Louise D’Arcens, February 2016) positions Global Chaucers within the burgeoning field of global medievalism. This groundwork prompted the editors of Wiley’s Companion to World Literature to solicit an article demonstrating Chaucer’s rightful place in World Literature, “The Global Pilgrimage of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales” (2019). We contributed 21 entries for the forthcoming Chaucer Encyclopedia. Two journal issues— “Chaucer’s Global Compaignye: Reading The Canterbury Tales in Translation” for the Global Circulation Project of Literature Compass (co-edited by Hsy and Barrington, 2018) and “Modernities and Global Medievalisms” for Digital Philology (co-edited by Barrington and D’Arcens, 2019)—further situate our project as reorienting scholars’ understanding of Chaucer’s global influence.
These publications have been supplemented by numerous invited talks, a steady flow of conference presentations, and the website, all of which introduce students and scholars to a fascinating pool of translations and adaptations that have reworked Chaucer for new purposes.
Since its inception in 2012, Global Chaucers has developed a reputation as a highly collaborative project, bringing to medieval studies voices hitherto muffled by their distance from the Anglo-American academy. By helping these scholars and translators through campus visits (in both directions) and arranging for joint presentations and publications, we have enlarged not only the object of our research but also our sphere of participation. We have mentored doctoral students in China, Iran, and Tunisia.
Chaucer’s Englishes: In his own day, Chaucer’s London-based variety of Middle English incorporated vocabulary from Latin as well as living vernacular languages (French, Italian, and Dutch among them), and the poet’s work shows how Middle English varies depending on a person’s social class, gender, ethnicity, and regional background. In this spirit, Global Chaucers embraces the wide variety of Englishes across the globe today, including local dialects or regional variants, pidgins, creoles, and many diasporic language varieties. We maintain an openness to language and culture, and we seek to challenge narrow ideas of what “counts” as proper English, past or present.
We encourage and seek to support research that uses these resources and the insights gained from our project to ask a new set of questions:
- How do translations help us understand Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales?
- How has Chaucer’s oeuvre been appropriated to consider issues of a later era?
- What happens to Chaucer’s works when they are read through various cultures?
- How have Chaucer’s works been amenable to multiple Englishes?
- How has Chaucer’s English been a site of creative energy?