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Reviews367 of the Simplón Pass in The Prelude" (p. 87). The fourth reads "Mourning and Melancholia" by Emerson's changing ways of mastering his griefover the death of his son, Waldo. The readings ofFreud through these literary masters yield examples in plenty of ways to characterize the two poles represented by the norm-making and the norm-transgressing Freuds, by science vs. literature, continuity vs. innovation, masculine vs. feminine, normative vs. Romantic, figure ofauthority vs. inventor, fate vs. power. The crowning figure is that ofmourning and melancholia, where mourning is successful when the patient makes himself over in the image of the Freudian construct and melancholia when the patient "turns against himself in the interest of achieving a less comprehensively constructed or determinate being" (p. 149). "Mourning and Melancholia," then, becomes the matrix for a structural reading of Milton, Emerson, and Wordsworth, and this in a book that calls for the Romantic overthrow of the tyranny of Freud. City University of New YorkMary Bittner Wiseman Chaucerian Belief: The Poetics ofReverence and Delight, by John Martti Hill; 204 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, $27.50. Hill offers a new, moderate, and sinuously argued perspective on the Canterbury Tales, but it is finally neither interesting nor persuasive. He does steer a middle course between the allegorists and rhetoricists, who have recendy dominated the Chaucer industry—open to both but wary of their doctrines. In addition, he dismisses simplistic "teller-tale" interpretations and nimbly avoids reliance on unsubstantiable assumptions about order. Yet the exposition remains curiously unsatisfying. The central argument is that the Tales contain both truth and falsehood, which are to be understood by perception mingled with feeling and belief. Hill calls this "the poetics of reverence and delight," a "readerly poetics." Hearers, both inside and outside the Tales, are called upon to assess the truth claims of the narratives by remaining open, willing to believe, while testing those claims against experience. Hill develops this notion by examining the limitations and illuminations of the more or less naive narrators of the minor poems, who come to knowledge through feeling and belief. Their relative success depends upon their willingness to entertain new ideas by weighing truth in books (authorities ) against personal experience. 368Philosophy and Literature Of course, confidence about truth comes only when the "sentence" accords wholly with one's own experience. Such is rarely the case for the narrators, for the internal audience within the Canterbury Tales, or for us, except perhaps fleetingly in a stunned piety at the end of the "Second Nun's Tale" or an unreflective fellow-feeling at the end of the "Prioress' Tale." The latter is part of my problem with the book because I don't find myself of that community even fleetingly. Hill moves to more complex territory with the harsher realities of the Manciple, Canon's Yeoman, and Monk. That we, like the pilgrims, are left to decide what we make of these tales and their tellers frees us from the simple attribution of the tales' meanings to the characters of the tellers. This point is well taken especially because, as Hill argues, tales often develop a life of their own which the tellers are left to interpret with us: the answer, according to Hill, is to "know feelingly," to allow for the possibility of truth without simple gullibility. Although I am never quite sure what it means to "know feelingly," Hill does describe a Chaucer who is neither entirely certain nor entirely skeptical, who is interested in the education of the "perplexed reader," and narrator. Having first developed the idea of the perplexed interpreter in the minor poems, Hill applies his grid to several loci in the Canterbury Tales. And this is where my skepticism deepens. There does not seem to be any significant reciprocity between Hill's readings and his thesis. For example, he argues that the "Squire's Tale" is a mostly admirable, unfinished tale not interrupted by the Franklin and that the Franklin is a generally admirable fellow who reacts graciously and patiently to the Host's barbs and tells a tale which, though limited, urges the moral that one's word is one's bond. Possibly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 367-368
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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