In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER included whether or not there were historial parallels; their relevance to Malory's society is accidental. And the thesis leads to occasional forced readings: it may be possible, for example, that Geoffrey refuses to com­ ment furtheron the adultery ofMordredand Guineverebecause itsuggests the sort ofbetrayal from within the power structure that the Normans had to deal with in the past and might have to deal with again-that is, this is a tactful silence on a sensitive subject. No doubt Geoffrey is being discreetly silent-but the text seems more naturally to suggest that he is disturbed not by the political overtones ofthe adultery but by the idea of a nephew sleeping with his aunt. Butthisis, in thelarger contextofKnight'swork, quibblingoverdetails. Arthurian Literature and Society provides an interesting and different understanding of the significance of some of the major texts. It has the double virtue ofbeing frequently quiteconvincing and, when not entirely convincing, provoking in a healthy and stimulating manner. ANTHONY K. MOSES University of Tennessee V. A. KOLVE. Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984. Pp. xiv; 551, 175 illus. $39.50. Given the well-deserved influence of Kolve's The Play Called Corpus Christi (1966), it is surely no exaggeration to say that the present volume has been long awaited, not only by Chaucerians but also by those inter­ ested inmedievalliterature more generallyand iconographic approachesto literature more specifically. Chaucer and the Imagery ofNarrative is an imposing volume, wide-ranging in its sources, thoroughly documented, elegantlywritten, and at the same time readable. The erudition that comes from living with material over a long period of time is worn lightly. Moreover, it is an extremely handsome volume, ornamented with 175 splendid illustrations conveniently placed in the body ofthe text. Never­ theless, it is a book about which serious questions must be raised. As itssubtitle-TheFirstFive Canterbury Tales-indicates, the readings are limited to the beginning of The Canterbury Tales. For those five tales 212 REVIEWS the reading is elaborate and comprehensive; even the treatment of the Cook's brieffragment is forty pages long, and the chapters on TheKnight's Tale and The Miller's Tale are considerably longer. Furthermore, Kolve's readings ofthese opening tales attempt to raise significant implications for the entire poem, for he argues that in moving "from innovation to retraction" they form a "profoundly Chaucerian" pattern (p. 7) and that they are "prophetic-typologically anticipatory-ofthe shape ofthe liter­ ary pilgrimage as a whole" (p. 85). The title also suggests that this is a book with a thesis on the relationship between Chaucer and the visual arts. Briefly stated, the thesis is that within The Canterbury Tales are embodied central visual images that govern our response to the poem by reinforcing the major structural and thematic concerns embodied in the tales. Kolve spells out this thesis in two prelimi­ nary chapters. In the first he sets forth some medieval hypotheses concern­ ing audience and image by investigating various medieval theories of knowing, especially the theories of memory most fully studied in the pioneering work of Frances Yates. The chapter also applies these epis­ temological hypotheses toliterarytheory,arguingthat what is most memo­ rable about a medieval narrative are its images; that a poetic narrative "sought a response from the inner eye: it became, at some mysterious juncture in its progress, 'visual' " (p. 19); and that medieval authors " 'invent' their material-in the root sense offinding it, discovering it-by conceiving that material visually" (p. 40). The second chapter applies these hypotheses to develop a Chaucerian aesthetic and to argue that the visual element in Chaucer's narratives is achieved through the creation of a few major "narrative images." These "are central to the tale that uncovers them" and "are symbolic in their potential meaning," although their symbolism "is characteristically subor­ dinate to the verisimilar surfaces of the fiction within which they await discovery" (p. 72). Distinguished from the many isolated and briefly noted images that may inhabit a medieval poem, "narrative images" "have their only real existence" in "whole poems" (p. 75). Nevertheless, they are part of an independent iconographic tradition current...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 212-218
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.