Friday, February 15, 2008


Yesterday in Chaucer class, my students and I discussed Book V of Troilus and Criseyde. I pointed out that the word "remembraunce" is used 8 times in that book and we discussed what it meant and why that might be important. Was it only "memory" or did it have then the connotations it has for us now, of memorial and loss? (It did.) And we talked about the reliance on the "apostrophe" (a direct address to an absent or inanimate addressee) in this book, as well as the appearance of letters to and from Troilus and Criseyde, and the somewhat surprising appearance of the "ubi sunt" motif, that mainstay of Latin and Old English elegiac poetry. We put this all together and pondered whether this wasn't primarily a love story after all, if maybe Chaucer had used the love story as a vehicle for getting at the inevitability of death, loss, and mourning.

It all seemed rather depressing and inappropriate for Valentine's day. But unfortunately death and "remembraunce" was a truly and terribly appropriate theme for a university classroom in the midwest on Valentine's Day 2008.

My heart goes out to the students, faculty, and staff of Northern Illinois University, and their families, particularly to those who now have the responsibility of remembrance for the 6 students and the gunman who are all now dead.

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