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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Although he comes to the conclusion that ‘‘idle words may be the nearest thing to the besetting view of the Canterbury Pilgrimage game’’ (p. 228), Blamires also notes that ‘‘so-called idle words and vanities furnish the moral as well as imaginative core of his creative output’’ (p. 229). The book ends with a brief conclusion about Chaucer as a moral poet working ‘‘wonders’’ with moral analysis (p. 238). The overall effect of Chaucer, Ethics, and Gender is an interesting one. While repeatedly making intriguing assertions and exploring complex questions, and certainly making a strong case for Chaucer as a poet deeply engaged with morality, the book seems to fall short in answering its own questions and exploring its own discoveries. In numerous cases, Blamires offers up readings with significant implications that he pulls back from investigating. The collection, for all its scope, leaves its readers wanting more. Yet if Blamires is correct in stating that in the investigation of Chaucer and gender ‘‘what is needed now is a period of consolidation’’ (p. 3), perhaps he has begun that challenge which succeeding critics will continue to answer. Certainly anyone interested in exploring ‘‘gender formulations in Chaucer’s poetry . . . in relation to the various medieval discourses through and against which his formulations are positioned’’ (p. 3) will need to read this book, and in doing so will find a distinct combination of inspiration, frustration, and reward. Angela Jane Weisl Seton Hall University Ardis Butterfield, ed. Chaucer and the City. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006. Pp. xiv, 231. $80.00. This diverse collection of essays works within the rich tradition of medieval London studies that flourished especially in the late twentieth century thanks to the work of Caroline Barron, Barbara Hanawalt, Sheila Lindenbaum, and David Wallace, among others. The individual essays (slightly more than half of which are versions of papers delivered at the 2002 London Chaucer Conference) frequently acknowledge their debt to this tradition through their methodologies or arguments, and sometimes extend beyond it in exciting and important ways. The volume revolves most productively around the notions of residue, PAGE 470 470 ................. 16596$ CH13 11-01-10 14:08:13 PS REVIEWS of conflagration, and of archive. That is, as Butterfield notes in her introduction , ‘‘Chaucer and the Detritus of the City,’’ London famously does not exist in Chaucer’s poetry; the text ‘‘rebuffs as much as invites our efforts to grasp its urban character’’ (p. 13). The essays collected here are often subtly sophisticated in their theoretical negotiation of the idea of ‘‘recovering’’ the medieval city. As Ruth Evans puts it in her contribution, ‘‘The Production of Space in Chaucer’s London,’’ we are well beyond ‘‘the critical game of hunt-the-London’’ (p. 56); instead, the contributors sift through the matter left over after the catastrophe of historical difference and find in Chaucer’s poetry virtual spaces, along with alternative or oppositional discourses and ideas, in which medieval London can thrive. Marion Turner’s ‘‘Greater London,’’ for example, argues that the geographical and cultural definitions of London exceed the boundaries of the walled city to include such diverse elements as the king, the country, the stews, the pubs, and even false words and gossip. Taking issue with David Wallace’s formulation of London as an ‘‘absent city’’ in Chaucer’s poetry, Turner demonstrates the city’s frequently dangerous and noxious presence. Evans’s suggestion, in the course of her reading of Favent and the Rykener deposition, that London’s multiple bodies are ‘‘energetic, sensual and defiant’’ (p. 52), is corroborated and extended in Barbara Nolan ’s ‘‘Chaucer’s Poetics of Dwelling in Troilus and Criseyde.’’ Focusing on Chaucer’s subtle and dynamic usage of the verb ‘‘to dwell,’’ including its Old English senses of ‘‘seducing, wandering, erring, deluding’’ (p. 62), Nolan suggests that the city here is subject to ‘‘extreme rescaling’’ (p. 72) as its residents ‘‘habitually trop[e] whatever mortal spaces they inhabit for the sake of comfortable dwelling and love’’ (p. 74). Christopher Cannon, in his ‘‘Chaucer and the Language of London,’’ similarly focuses on the broken, or diminished, body of the ‘‘citee,’’ a term (Cannon notes) Chaucer uses some eighty...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 470-473
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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