Date of Award

Spring 1937

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The present comparison of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxford with other fourteenth century clerks was undertaken to determine whether Chaucer has portrayed a type, and ideal, or an individual. Chaucer's own works and those of his contemporaries gave considerable data on the problem. These were supplemented with facts gathered from the records and the student letters and songs which have been make accessible by modern research. Additional details necessary for definite conclusions on the social life, studies and future possibilities of clerks were supplied by histories of medieval universities, biographies of churchmen, and studies in fourteenth century life and literature. The question as it is here considered has not been handled by chaucer critics. Consequently, they have contributed little that was pertinent. One of the best mines of information was the large number of Early English Text Society publications in the University of Chicago Library. Here were available most of the references for the study of the clerk from the view point of his own generation and from facts contributed by records of the time. In the assembling of facts on the life-work for which the clerk's university course was preparation, Abbot Gasquet's Parish Life in Medieval England and Reverend Edward Cutt's Parish Priests and Their People were invaluable. These works have been quoted with the more assurance since, although the authors viewed the middle ages from opposing religious camps, they arrived at the same conclusions on all matters approached on common ground. I have attempted in collecting and using these references, to give consideration to conflicting opinions except where an author's bias has been clearly proved by other authentic works. There has been little elimination on this score, largely because the prejudicial opinions usually cited were irrelevant to the subject. On the other hand, the nature of the question was such that, no initial stand being possible, all statements had to be considered.