We first spoke to Marion Turner, an English professor at Oxford University, in 2019, about her award-winning biography of Geoffrey Chaucer. In her latest book, The Wife of Bath: A Biography, Turner paints an unconventional portrait of Chaucer’s most famous—and clearly favorite—character: a bawdy, middle-aged, middle-class woman of multiple marriages. Alison of Bath is but one of the pilgrims Chaucer gathers around the table in his Canterbury Tales, but she is the only one to have inspired everyone from Shakespeare to James Joyce to Zadie Smith—and an equal number of misogynist critics, whether they were writing on vellum or in a 20th-century academic journal. Turner joins us on the podcast to discuss the Wife of Bath in her time and beyond, and why her voice still rings out with such force today.
Go beyond the episode:
- Marion Turner’s The Wife of Bath: A Biography
- Listen to our previous interview with Turner about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life
- Watch Jean “Binta” Breeze perform her adaptation of Chaucer’s tale, “The Wife of Bath in Brixton Market”
- Read Zadie Smith’s play, The Wife of Willesden (which you can see performed this month with its original star if you happen to find yourself in Cambridge, Massachusetts)
- Read Patience Agbabi’s poem “The Wife of Bafa” or watch her perform it at the modern version of the Tabard Inn—a brewery
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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