Rereading The Nun's Priest's Tale
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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Most readers agree that The Nunâs Priestâs Tale is one of Chaucerâs finest poetic achievements. Critics have judged it to be a âvirtuoso performance,â1 âthe most consciously aesthetic of Chaucerâs productions,â2 âa summa of Chaucerian artistry,â3 illustrating âin parvo the achievement of The Canterbury Tales as a whole.â4 Donald Howard finds it one of the âfew places in The Canterbury Tales . . . where we hear a neutral voice...
The Nun's Priest's Body, or Chaucer's Sexual Genius
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Fragment VII of The Canterbury Tales, a linked sequence of six quite radically different narratives, has for a long time been appreciated as a sustained metapoetic interrogation of the aesthetic ramifications and the linguistic dimensions of Chaucerâs own literary art. In 1967, Alan Gaylord argued that Fragment VII was Chaucerâs âliterary fragment,â whose...
The Nun's Priest's Tale as Grammar School Primer, Menippean Parody, and Ars Poetica
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Two of Chaucerâs cockiest protagonists, Nicholas and Chauntecleer, are committed to rendering the liberal arts useful in their everyday lives. In The Millerâs Tale, âhende Nicholasâ keeps at âhis beddes heedâ books and instruments pertaining to three of the quadrivial arts: for astronomy his âAlmagesteâ and his âastrelabie,â for arithmetic his âaugrym stones,â and...
Close Reading: Beginnings and Endings
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How to begin? Indeed, how does one know what a proper beginning is? The nearly universal anxiety given voice in these and related questions carries a special set of burdens for the creators of fiction in a traditional Christian culture. Living inside the grand narrative of salvation history at a point far removed from the Alpha and Omega, how can one settle...
Chaucer's Heliotropes and the Poetics of Metaphor
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Here the Franklin pretends to be an ignoramus when it comes to understanding the figuraeâthe colors, or flowers, of poetryâtaught in the rhetorical handbooks. The Franklinâs antipoetic sentiments are of course problematic, for his four-line demurral concerning the proper understanding of âcoloursâ contains a subtle illustration not only of the word...
The Noise of History
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When we listen to the poetry of Chaucerâs words, we listen to meaningful sounds as well as to sounds that are culturally coded to carry little or no meaning. As medieval grammarians explained it, when we attend to vox articulata literata, to transcribable and humanly understandable speech, ...
Chaucerian Horologics and the Confounded Reader
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Just a few hours out of London on the pilgrimage to Canterbury, Harry Bailly, the pilgrimsâ leader, suddenly decides to determine precisely what time of the day it is. He does this not by reading a portable mechanical clock, since these lightweight coiled-spring instruments were not invented until the fifteenth-century.1 Nor does he determine that it was the hour...
The Parodistic Episteme: Learning to Behold the Fox
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Among the hundreds of scholarly books Rabelais lists as belonging to the mock-magnificent Parisian library of St. Victor is one Quaestio subtilissima, whose full title (in translation) is A Most Subtle Question: whether the Chimera buzzing about in a vacuum can consume second intentions, it having been battered about for ten weeks at the Council of Constance.1 Rabelaisâ satire...
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Who, then, is Chaucer? In my introduction, I noted the common practice in Chaucer studies of characterizing Chaucerâs authorial voice by prizing it cleanly apart from the voice of a taleâs pilgrim-speaker. Typically, critics discussing individual Canterbury tales use âChaucerâ as a placeholder for the poemâs geniusâomnicompetent, wise, ethical, and...
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Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2010