Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Michael Gavin


This project aims to provide a basis by which distant reading techniques may be applied to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The critical corpus is oddly devoid of studies examining these techniques as tools for understanding Chaucer’s work. This paper endeavors to rectify this gap by demonstrating the kinds of insights made available by computational distant reading techniques as described by Johanna Drucker, Matthew Jockers and Jerome Bellegarda, among others. This study is founded on the belief that close reading and other forms of analysis needlessly exclude a broader view of the target work. It is not my intention in this study to entirely supplant close reading - I merely demonstrate the value that additional analytical tools can offer. Chapter 1, therefore, will function as an introduction, familiarizing the reader with these techniques and the study in a general sense. Chapter 2 will provide an over of some of the previous literature on knighthood, both historically and in literature. Chapter 3 will focus on the implementation of these techniques through the R programming language and will lay out the methodology and specific objectives of the study. Chapter 4, finally, will present the results of the study and discuss how this type of work can be expanded to other works in the Middle English corpus to supplement, rather than replace, the traditional forms of analysis that have so long predominated the critical discourse.