By JOANNA KASPE
In an attempt to bring Geoffrey Chaucer’s works to life so students can better understand them, a BYU English professor is recording and distributing Chaucer’s works.
Paul R. Thomas of the English Department, in conjunction with the Chaucer Studio Recordings, has recorded several tapes of Chaucer’s works in Middle English and is one of the two distributors of the increasingly popular tapes.
“When I first offered to become involved with the tape distribution, there was a very small number of people who knew about the project,” Thomas said. “I guess you could say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Now the tapes are being distributed all over the world.
“Nearly every day I receive phone calls from people placing orders for more of the tapes or from people wanting to know more about the tapes,” Thomas said.
Professor V.A. Kolve, president of the new Chaucer Society and an English professor at UCLA, said, “The tapes have made an enormous difference in teaching my students last semester. I want to order more for next semester.”
Thomas said the tapes are now in libraries and media centers such as the Learning Resource Centers in the Harold B. Lee Library and the Jesse Knight Humanities Building. They are also being used by teachers as a new teaching technique.
“They are being sold at Canterbury Cathedral Gift Shop, in London at Dillons bookstore, and at bookstores around the world, including the BYU Bookstore,” Thomas said.
Chaucer Studio Recordings is a nonprofit organization, started by Tom Burton of the University of Adelaide in Australia. The profits from the sale of the tapes go toward making new recordings, Thomas said.
“We now have readers from England, Australia, Canada, and universities all around the United States. The readers are a mix of average people and scholars who get together for fun to record Chaucer’s works in the original language,” Thomas said.
“Some recordings are Old English, many are Middle English. Now, the studio is also doing recordings in Old French Provencal and Old Norse.”
“As a medievalist, I know how hard it is for our students to understand a world that is very far away. Part of my philosophy of teaching is to help my students recover the past,” Thomas said. “These tapes, in their dramatized good readings, have helped bring the text alive for the students.”