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.
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.
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."