The English-Speaking Union

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Chaucer: A European Life

Wednesday, April 21 from 4:00-5:00 PM (EDT)
Professor Marion Turner

In her talk, Marion will be discussing the extraordinary life of Geoffrey Chaucer, a man who lived through the worst pandemic humanity has ever seen and made his way in the world in a time of radical change. A merchant's son, prisoner of war, diplomat, MP, and pioneering poet, Chaucer lived through rebellions, usurpation, and conflict. While past biographers have often focused on Chaucer's Englishness, he was, in fact, a great internationalist. Marion will talk about his journeys all over the continent, his innovative use of European poetry, and his life in cosmopolitan fourteenth-century London, a place where spices from as far afield as Indonesia were on sale. This is the story of one of the most unusual and brilliant imaginations in literary history. 

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Marion Turner

Marion Turner is Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, where she is a Fellow of Jesus College. Chaucer: A European Life came out with Princeton University Press in 2019 to international acclaim, and is the first full biography of this great poet for a generation. Chaucer: A European Life won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, and was picked as a 'Book of the Year,' by numerous newspapers and magazines. The New Statesman called it a 'masterpiece,' and the Times Literary Supplement hailed it as 'an absolute triumph.' Marion lives in Oxford with her husband, two children, and a puppy. 

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Signature Cocktail

For her Happy Hour, Marion has selected the classic Bellini. She notes that "I thought this would be appropriate because it is a classic Italian cocktail - I have happy memories of drinking it in Harry's Bar in Venice on my own honeymoon! - and Chaucer's life and poetry were transformed by his trips to Italy in 1373 and 1378. In fact, his encounters with Italian literature changed what English poetry could do."


  • 2 oz Fresh peach purée
  • 4 oz Prosecco
  • White peaches
Pour peach puree into chilled flute, add Prosecco. Stir gently.

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