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Reviews 181 The most original and most useful of the five new essays is Laurie Finke's '"AU is for to seUe": Breeding Capital in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale.' I say the most useful, because unlike the other essays, it works to bridge the discursive and critical gap that otherwise opens up in this volume between Murfin's essays and those of the five Chaucerians. Elsewhere it seems taken for granted that medieval texts can simply be brought under the rule of psychoanalysis or feminism, where the critical traditions of medievalism and medieval studies might reasonably be seen as complicating factors. In contrast, Finke turns around the usual relations between text and theory to examine what Marx says about the preconditions for capitalism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. She offers a literal reading of Richard Halpern's term hreeding capital' and describes the weakness in Marx's o w n fiction of 'primitive accumulation' in pre-capitalist society: his neglect of 'woman's relegation in both theological and economic doctrine to the sphere of reproduction'. More successfully than some of the other writers, Finke teaches as she analyses the relationship between marriage and capital in medieval society, concluding that the many transformations in the Wife of Bath's prologue and tale act 'to mystify the sexual violence required as marriage is transformed to serve a money economy'. In re-writing the theoretical paradigm with which she begins, Finke implicitly challenges the usual relation between the passive canonical text and its saviours: the n e w critical modes of the 1980s and 1990s. Whtie the coUection as a whole remains bound within that paradigm, it is nevertheless one of the more successful and provocative instances of the genre. Stephanie Trigg Department of English University of Melbourne Blank, Paula, Broken English: Dialects and the Politics of Language i Renaissance Writings (The Politics of Language), London and N e w York, Routledge, 1996; cloth; pp. viii, 211; R.R.P. £50.00, U S $69.95. The central concern of Broken English, one made very clear by the subtitle , is to show h o w several European languages—English amongst 182 Reviews them—were concerned to centratise one particular version of their language, which thereby became the national language. In the case of English, Paula Bank admits to having been indebted to the 1991 text, Richard W . Bailey's Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language, which explored the 'ways in which linguistic communities are formed' and the emergence of standard languages. Bailey's scepticism about English's 'triumphatism' at the Renaissance, and about the conviction of superiority of a certain variety/varieties within the language, led him to predict that many 'orthodox' assumptions about English would need further examination at length. This is exactly what the present study is concerned to do. Paula Blank herseU agrees that her work belongs in the field styled 'attitudes towards language' and particularly acknowledges R. F. Jones' seminal study The Triumph of the English Language (1953), a text referring to the rise in status—social, poUtical, religious, and literary—of English as against Latin. She does, however, stress at the outset (p.l) that Jones does not investigate fully the very meaning of 'English' at the time. A similar caveat is mounted against another orthodoxy, that 'Language historians have traced the rise of a standard written English, derived from the East Midlands dialect of Middle English, to the late fourteenth and earlyfifteenthcenturies' (p.14). This last Blank identifies specificaUy with Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable, A History of the English Language (3rd edition, 1978). A n d so she clears the air before developing her o w n fascinating and persuasive theme. The core of the book is ordered to explain the Renaissance discovery of dialect, a potent Early Modern discourse, and then to focus on the consequences of this cultural event for the English language and its Uterature. Thus works like Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall (1604) are shown to be well aware of the stratification of the vernacular 'along the lines of class or social community' (p. 2), rather than as primarily regional. The notion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 181-186
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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