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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER which erotic tensions circulate so messily in most of these tales (save for her extensive analysis of Troilus and Criseyde). With so much desire slopping about in these triangulated affairs of man, woman, and pander, the analysis begs for a queer theoretical approach to map out the ways in which the heterosexual and the homosexual merge with the heterosocial and homosocial to the ultimate confusion of many gendered categories. Mieszkowski addresses these tensions in her analysis of Pandarus, but such an examination could be fruitfully expanded to virtually every other text addressed in Medieval Go-Betweens and Chaucer’s Pandarus. Scholars interested in queer theory should mine through Mieszkowski’s wonderful monograph; she has established a new territory of pandering scholarship that will benefit from additional investigations. In sum, Mieszkowski has written a glorious book in Medieval GoBetweens and Chaucer’s Pandarus, one that illuminates a fascinating literary tradition and then shows its relevance to one of the masterworks of the English literary tradition. I am confident that her monograph will make a lasting contribution to medieval studies of gender, romance, and the messy cultural work of love. Tison Pugh University of Central Florida J. Allan Mitchell. Ethics and Exemplary Narrative in Chaucer and Gower. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004. Pp. viii, 157. $75.00. Scholars have long seen that the contingent voices of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales pose a sophisticated poetic challenge to readerly judgment, while Chaucer’s moral tenor has often been taken as implicit rather than explicit. In Gower’s Confessio Amantis, on the other hand, contingent morality has often been understood as a poetic liability. J. Allan Mitchell sets out to redress this imbalance by foregrounding the ways in which both poets reveal the circumstantial nature of ethical decision-making. By situating both poets in an ethical context that stretches from Aristotelian rhetoric to modern moral philosophy, Mitchell makes a learned and suggestive case for reading Gower and Chaucer as ‘‘exemplary genealogists of morals rather than just representative moralizers’’ (p. 7). Chapter 1, ‘‘Reading for the Moral: Controversies and Trajectories,’’ PAGE 528 528 ................. 16596$ CH13 11-01-10 14:08:41 PS REVIEWS sets aside the awkward marriage between general and particular (moral and story) which commonly characterizes moral discourse, emphasizing instead the act of reception: drawing on exegetical terminology, Mitchell writes that readers reduce stories to individually applicable truths, engaging in ‘‘tropological’’ understanding of exemplary texts. He defends the value of reading for moral messages, insisting that in the Middle Ages, ‘‘reductive moralization represented an acceptable and in fact indispensable way of putting exemplary narrative to use’’ (p. 17). Narrative cases are essentially incomplete until applied in action: ‘‘Until it is realized in the conscience or conduct of a practitioner as a form of life, exemplary morality exists only in potentia’’ (p. 17). Chapter 2, ‘‘Rhetorical Reason: Cases, Conscience, and Circumstances,’’ charts the history of inductive judgment in moral casuistry, tracing connections from Aristotelian rhetoric to Cicero, through ars predicandi to Aquinas and Giles of Rome. This chapter foregrounds the way that exemplary rhetoric demands responsiveness to particular cases. The first two chapters, then, cogently set aside any notion of exemplary discourse as a stable code of sociopolitical norms. Mitchell’s emphasis on audience response is refreshing , less because he embraces the apparent naı̈veté of reading for moral nuggets (p. 142) than because his central argument raises important questions about the relation between narrative poems and lived lives. In practice, Mitchell’s focus on reductiveness and pragmatic action provides grounds for celebrating the contradictions in Gower’s moral discourse. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the Confessio, and chapters 5, 6, and 7 offer readings of the Canterbury Tales. The Gower chapters argue, first, that contradictory messages do not detract from moral clarity but prompt ethical decision-making; and, second, that Gower’s vocabulary of experiential proof provides a comprehensive, not coherent, array of instances to draw upon. The argument strongly resists any notion that readers simply accede to exemplary injunctions, asserting instead that Genius teaches contradictory lessons precisely because ‘‘life demands more than a system of neat and tidy normative distinctions’’ (p. 56). The survey of criticism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 528-531
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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