- About This Issue
It is with great pleasure that we present this special issue, “Looking Forward, Looking Back on the Legend of Good Women.” Guest editors Betsy McCormick, Leah Schwebel, and Lynn Shutters reject the idea that the Legend is an unsuccessful experiment. Instead, they assume that close examination of the text will display Chaucer’s accomplishment, to which end they have assembled a superb group of scholars who read the Legend as a central work in Chaucer’s exploration of women’s emotional lives.
The subjects of this issue reflect the broad scope of twenty-first-century Chaucer study: they include prosody, classical and medieval source study, reception history, affect and emotion, and women’s lived experience of love, marriage, and betrayal. Where much study of the Legend has focused on the variant F and G Prologues, the essays here direct attention to the individual women in individual legends. Carolyn Collette examines the details of the Legend’s poetic line, finding similarities and contrast with Chaucer’s work in other poems. Leah Schwebel considers how Chaucer’s presentation of the morality of Lucretia’s suicide challenges the accounts by Livy and Augustine. Andrew Cole shows Chaucer interacting with both Ovid and Gower, and the Chaucer-Gower influences running in both directions. Glenn Burger juxtaposes the Legend’s accounts with those in late-fourteenth-century conduct books, highlighting the Legend’s “ugly feelings.” Lynn Shutters explores the Legend’s individualized formulations of the contentious performance of marital love. Irina Dumitrescu examines how Chaucer’s men use “beautiful” language to deceive women, who suffer when they are responsive. [End Page 1] Megan Cook relates modern critical response, and especially the focus on the F and G Prologues, to the presentation of the Legend in manuscripts and early printed books. Nancy Bradley Warren shows how John Bossewell’s effort to promote an ideal of English masculinity in his late-sixteenth-century Workes of Armorie is undercut by the examples he draws from the Legend.
The issue closes with Carolyn Dinshaw’s reflections on how she treated the Legend in her classic feminist study Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics. Juxtaposing Chaucer and the musician Prince, Dinshaw considers how far feminist study, gender study, and Legend study have progressed in the past three decades.
We are confident that these essays will stimulate new conversations on Chaucer’s method, language, and, most especially, achievement in the Legend of Good Women. [End Page 2]