Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is recognized as a formative text within the canon of English literature. Because of his widely known status, Chaucer and his writings have become the central focus of many medievalists; this does not simply mean the increased presence of critical writings, but also creative works that are inspired by The Canterbury Tales. Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales is a contemporary poetic retelling of The Canterbury Tales in which she explores the origins of ideas such as diaspora, colonization, racialized thinking, social hierarchy, and binary thinking, only to question these ideas in her own writing. Author Seth Lerer argues, “Constructing literary systems entails positing not just a present of performance but a past of cultural identity. It necessitates the self-conscious invention of a history to literature and, in turn, a definition of the poet’s self-appointed role in mediating that history to a present reading, commissioning, or judging community” (Lerer 4). Although Lerer is discussing the ratification of Chaucer into the modern canon of English literature, he is creating a clear line of historical foundations for the practice of rewriting. Agbabi is continuing Chaucer’s practice of drawing on his own surroundings to create a tale of the present. Patience Agbabi rewrites “The Man of Law’s Tale” into a queer and transnational tale by extracting points of origin from the Middle Ages and rewriting them from a contemporary point of view.
Wigger, Caylin, "Retelling Tales: Patience Agbabi's Queering of Chaucer's "The Man of Law's Tale"" (2023). Undergraduate Research Awards, Hollins University. 69.