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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales exhibits elements of both completeness and incompleteness as a work of literature. Written in England starting c. 1387, the text presents a collection of tales told by characters of diverse backgrounds, combining poetry and prose to form a sequence of stories. With some exceptions, the tales themselves appear to be contained and complete, but the collection in its entirety “still bears signs of a work in progress.”1 In the General Prologue, the host of the Tabard Inn proposes the structure for the tales told by the travelers on their pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, giving the text its frame. According to the rules outlined by the host, each of the travelers is to tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. The tales that actually appear in the sequence number far fewer than the proposed amount—the clearest sign of the incompleteness inherent in the text.


Trinity University


San Antonio

Publication Information

The Expositor: A Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Humanities