To support the English Department’s teaching to the Upper Sixth of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale”, we were honoured to welcome Professor Helen Cooper, the pre-eminent scholar in the field, to Mill Hill School this Thursday in order to deliver a lecture on the text, followed by an informal question and answer session.
Prof. Cooper has contributed in so many ways to the study of Medieval Literature. She began her academic career by reading for her undergraduate and doctoral degrees at New Hall, now Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. She was later appointed the first female Fellow of University College, University of Oxford where she also rose to become Chair of its Faculty of English. Prof. Cooper then returned to Cambridge where she accepted a Professorship in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Now a Professor Emeritus and a Life Fellow of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, she has also been awarded a Fellowship of the British Academy.
Prof. Cooper has published two highly influential books on “The Canterbury Tales”, which are both compulsory reading for anyone aspiring to study English Literature at university level. They are entitled “The Structure of The Canterbury Tales” and “Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales”.
During the lecture, Prof. Cooper discussed the character of the Wife of Bath and her tale from Chaucer’s magnum opus: “The Canterbury Tales”. Topics she addressed included anti-feminism, Chaucer and the French tradition, the marriage group theory within “The Canterbury Tales”, medieval ecclesiastical beliefs, the relationship between the teller and the tale as well as some of the apparent inconsistencies about the concerns of the wife’s prologue with those in the tale itself.
It was a real pleasure to see the pupils so enthusiastic about Prof. Cooper and to hear them ask such intelligent questions afterwards. We are sure that the event will help them immensely as they prepare to sit their final public examinations for the A-Level in English Literature.