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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Publications on Medieval English Language and Literature in Japan (Tokyo: Centre for Mediaeval English Studies, 1983), pp. 197-206. It is with regret to have to conclude that the scholar will have to use the present edition with caution and, according to his needs, turn to facsimiles ofthe Winchester MS and the Morgan copy ofthe Marte, since they serve as useful do-it-yourself collation kits. TOSHIYUKI TAKAMIYA Keio University, Tokyo DEREK TRAVERSI. The Canterbury Tales: A Reading. Newark, N. J.: University of Delaware Press, 1983. Pp. 251. $25.00. Derek Traversi comes to The Canterbury Tales as a nonspecialist; he sees his book as contributing to criticism rather than scholarship; his "reading" concentrates on what he considers the most significant parts of the un­ finished work. He views the beginning and the ending as fixed, "the twin pillars...within which the unfolding fresco ofthe action is contained" (p. 11). That action he explores in three parts, the opening sequence of The Knight's Tale and the two fabliaux, the tales dealing with marriage and the question of "maistrie" inspired by the Wife of Bath, and finally a less unified set of tales beginning with the Pardoner's and ending with the Nun's Priest's, where moral assumptions and the validity of fiction come into question and the relativity of the comic vision emerges. Two other essays, omitted because of limitations of space, fill out Traversi's concep­ tion of The Canterbury Tales. These essays, on The Franklin'.r Tale and The Manciple's Tale, appeared in The Literary Imagination (also from Dela­ ware, 1982). It is always refreshing to have a distinguished critic turn his attention to Chaucer's masterpiece. One expects, and in this instance one gets in every chapter, flashes of insight into the details of design, the specifics of Chaucer's art. Traversi warns of the Wife of Bath's need to fictionalize her marriages; he stresses the bitter ironies in the epithalamion at the start of The Merchant's Tale. He is also adept in establishing the overall tone that distinguishes The Miller's Tale from The Reeve's Tale, The Clerk's Tale 254 REVIEWS from the otheridealistic romances, ThePardoner's Tale as sui generis in the dichotomy between moral and aesthetic values. His strongest insights come in the general implications of the tales. He sees them as reflecting the many-faceted and sometimes contradictory realities of ordinary life and at the same time pointing to the truths of deeper human experience. At the end ofhis discussion of The Reeves Tale he sees "the 'white thing' dimly perceived" and the cry for water in The Miller's Tale as performing similar functions- "wonderfully effective de­ vices for focusingthemisplacedenergies ofthe human agents ofeach upon a deceptive point ofcertainty" (p. 88). Hespeaks ofanotherkind ofdestiny in The Reeve's Tale, "bitter, realistic, and convinced offinal and necessary futility," as compared to the nobler, more imaginative view in The Knight's Tale, itself "subjected by the Miller to the action of the released comic imagination" (p. 88). The three tales are seen as not canceling each other but introducing "themes that will weave themselves into the expand­ ing pattern of pilgrimage" (p. 88). The Wife of Bath, Traversi points out, has her surrogate in the tale renounce sovereignty in favorofobedience, thus attaining the kind ofideal relationship denied her in her real life. He compares this conclusion with the uneasy balance between her and her fifth husband,Jankin, brought about "through the violence they inflicted upon one another" (p. 120). Here perhaps too much force is given Alison's blow onJankin's cheek, not enough to the expression of love that precedes it, or to the kindness and fidelity she rewarded him with afterward. In any event her reversion to the quest for dominance in the blessing that brings the tale to an end shows "her unwillingness to accept the full implications...of the tale she has told," the irony of asking Christ "the source of 'patience' " for what runs contrary not only to her own experience but to the "very nature ofthings" (p. 121). Traversi sees certain themes as running through...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 254-257
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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