Hearing, smelling, savoring, and touching in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Medieval meal
Medieval meal
Medieval meal

Hearing, smelling, savoring, and touching in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Elizabeth Titsworth

University of Arizona: Master of Arts, Graduate College (1950)


Chaucer’s scholar’s have long recognized the poet’s keen sense of observation and have commented upon the poet’s ability to transfer his visual images to his writing. Articles and theses and chapters of books have been devoted to analyzing and interpreting his imagery and conscious effort has been exercised to rebuild medieval pictures from his descriptive detail. Since so mnch research has been done and so many studies have been made concerning Chancer’s unusual sensitiveness to his surrounding’s, it is surprising that so little attention has been given to his sensitiveness in the remaining four: senses, hearing, smelling, savoring, and touching.

1. The History of the problem

No comprehensive paper has been written to affirm or to disaffirm Chaucer’s interest in these senses or his accuracy in defining them. However, in discussion of Chaucer’s particular genius as a story teller, numerous scholars have repeatedly mentioned his life like and his realistic settings. Marchette Chute calls the Wife of Bath “a living breathing woman” and concludes that “anyone who meets her can hear the tones of her voice and recognise the turns of her mind”. Miss Chute seems to feel that Chaucer has been able to convey a sense of sound, even to the one of voice, in his portrayal of the Wife of Bath.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Arizona

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