Today’s “Great Read” article in the New York Times features CMS professor Sebastian Sobecki and a revolutionary moment in Chaucer studies. Together with Euan Roger of the British National Archives, Sobecki has uncovered archival documents that change 150 years of scholarly interpretation of a contested legal case in Chaucer’s life.
The legal case concerns Cecily Chaumpaigne—a woman whom Chaucer, until recently, was widely believed to have raped. The belief was based on a legal document drafted around 1380 and discovered in the 1870s. However, the newer evidence presented by Sobecki and Roger indicates that both Chaumpaigne and Chaucer were co-defendants in a legal case brought by Chaumpaigne’s former employer. The 1380 documents concern a labor dispute rather than a rape charge.
Sobecki and Roger’s discovery was first publicized three days ago in a livestream hosted by the British National Archives, attended by over 700 participants. The livestream included commentary from prominent feminist scholars, with extensive discussion of the ramifications for the field.
For more on the ongoing conversation, check out the NYT article at “Chaucer the Rapist? Newly Discovered Documents Suggest Not.”