Medieval Studies
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Columbia's Dr. Susan Crane speaks on 'Animals in Chaucer'

Tue, Feb 13, 2007

In Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer offers sharp and surprising insights about humanrelationships with other animals. While it might appear that a little dog, a cock, anda falcon simply help Chaucer to comment on human society, bonds of sympathy betweenhumans and animals reveal a deeper curiosity about animals themselves, and about whatkinds of relationships are possible with them.

Rather than seeing animals as sharply different from humans, in line with philosophicalthought of his time, Chaucer explores human-animal connections through the commonplaceexperience of feeling for animals. The Prioress weeps over her pet dogs, the Nun'sPriest laments the plight of a vain rooster, and in the Squire's Tale a princessrescues a falcon in distress. What does it mean to pity animals, or to feel compassionfor their suffering?

Susan Crane is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her books Insular Romance (1986), Gender and Genre in Chaucer's