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224 Reviews It is virtuaUy impossible to fault The Plumpton Letters and Papers. This volume is absolutely essential for all libraries of fifteenth-century EngUsh studies. It covers aU the available letters and the most important documents, with detailed notes on every point. While the price m a y deter some individual researchers, it is an outstanding edition of an almost unique source. E m m a Hawkes Cultural and Historical Studies Griffith University Klitgard, Ebbe, Chaucer's Narrative Voice in The Knight's Tale, Copenhagen, M u s e u m Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 1995; paper; pp. Ill; R.R.P. US42.00. This is a short book and a good one. It focuses on the text rather than the context; and it does so with clarity and c o m m o n sense, combining modern narrative theory with close reading, comparative analysis of other works by Chaucer, and consideration of Chaucer's o w n view of an author's role. The three opening chapters provide a succinct account of previous approaches to the Canterbury Tales, discussing the chief fallacies of twentieth-century criticism: the focus on psychological interpretation of persona-narrators (to which I plead guUty), the ignoring of medieval theories of authorship, and the imposition of the critic's o w n ideological concerns upon the text. This survey reveals some similarities in unexpected places. The dramatic theory (with the tale as an iUustration of the character of the teller) m a y be thought to have reached its apogee in Terry Jones's ironic reading of the Knight as a medieval mercenary, but Klitgard shows that it Uves on in more recent readings, in which the Knight is seen variously as (for example) a faUed Boethian philosopher, an author, or a spokesman for the fourteenth-century aristocracy. PearsaU's claim (quoted on p. 30) that the persona-narrator is 'a technique for systematicaUy ironizing the text' to make it mean whatever the critic wants it to mean could hardly be more neatly documented. Klitgard's o w n approach, which he characterizes as hasicaUy structuralist' but with 'a certain "magpie" tendency' to incorporate Reviews 225 other approaches (p. 10), focuses on narrative voice and technique rather than psychology. H e argues that the Knight as narrator is present only in the opening frame and in the last line of the tale: elsewhere he is merely a narrative voice. The voice, moreover, is not consistent in tone; and in places it is self-consciously the poet's o w n (e.g., where it gives cross-references to his other work and to his sources). It is used as a structuring technique for a narrative discourse formed from a series of contrasting pairs (examined in greater detail in subsequent chapters): seriousness vs. humour, high style vs. reatfsm, involvement vs. distance (p. 44). The frequent instances of the undercutting of the fust of each of these pairs by the second do not add up to incompetence on the part of the narrator or a parody of chivahic romance: they are part of the narratorial self-consciousness that highUghts the role of the poet. The repeated occurrences of the 'saugh T formula in the descriptions of the temples of Venus, Mars, and Diana in Book III suggest not a knight-narrator w h o has lost control but, as in the early dream poems, a poet w h o is 'in full control of a visio' (p. 79); and Book Ill's narrative design, with its emphasis on human victims rather than pagan gods, 'points to the fatal outcome of the story by a forceful poetic depiction of the pagan universe in its darker aspects' (p. 90). The three great philosophical passages (the diatribes of Palamon and Arcite against Fortune in Book I and Theseus's 'First-Mover' speech in Book IV) are aU based on Boethius, but with the Christian God and the consolations of phUosophy removed. Theseus, as indicated both within the tale and by Chaucer's depiction of him elsewhere (in Anelida and Arcite and in the legends of Ariadne and Phyllis in The Legend of Good Women), is an ambivalent figure...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 224-226
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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