Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.25): Final Thoughts (Chaucer Journal)

Going through Harry Bailey and company’s brilliant project Pilgrim Literary was a fantastic experience. Since this was also my first time reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, I do not think I could have asked for a more complete experience.

The idea of re-creating Chaucer’s tales in a modern setting seems like a natural idea, as though it should have been done many times over by now instead of merely haphazardly by high schoolers and college students projects’ galore. A coherent, concrete and unified modern narrative seems long overdue so now that we finally have one, and a finished project which is a delight to behold, moreover, is no small deal.

I can imagine this project being used in classrooms the world over (or, at least in the Anglo-American sphere). Teachers can assign students tales, have them engage with and deconstruct the differences between Chaucer’s original and the adapted stories, and brainstorm adaptations of their own. Certainly, if I should ever be at the head of a classroom where Chaucer’s epic is the central focus, I will assign Pilgrim Literary as a major project.

In the future, I would like to launch my own version of Pilgrim Literary; whether this is in a high school setting or a college setting, I know that it would be a blast to see how each new round of tale-tellers respond to Chaucer as the years drag on; to see especially how young people grapple with Chaucer and how that grappling changes would be a treat most fascinating. Let’s be honest, after all, if Chaucer cannot be relevant to teenagers and young adults, then to what demographic is he relevant?

I believe that Chaucer has more relevancy than merely to dusty, ivory-tower bound academics. His narratives and depictions of people have aged far better than most pieces of literature from yesteryear and to discard that excellent aging, ditch the kids, and sequester Chaucer away in some formal fortress of poetic study is to abandon the very nature of what it means to be a Public Medievalist.

So, yeah, I loved Pilgrim Literary. I will be returning to this project time and again; I will be assigning it to my students someday, and perhaps even use it as a model to create my own iteration of modern tales. I won’t rank this project as a whole because the rankings for the tales were largely just my own spurious observations as an outside participant in the modern pilgrim’s fun. All’s I will say is that the field of medieval study needs more engagements like this if it is to survive and counteract the longstanding history of falsification. So, bravo!

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