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SWDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER eliminated the possibility of commentary. A companion volume of notes would solve this problem. Another problem, again perhaps related to an unclear audience analysis or to the demands of an actual seminar situation, relates to the glossary. While it is quite extensive, it does not help readers interpret several rather difficult lines. Making syntactical sense of what one finds after looking up words can be perplexing. Glossing the text on these difficult lines at the bottom ofthe page on which they appear would help solve many problems of meaning. Editorial procedure remains the most frustrating problem of the text. Any textual critic can sympathize with the trials of producing a reliable text. Beadle corrects many misreadings of the Smith edition, as noted in the apparatus, but what is puzzling is his own editorial policies. Such readings as thoughte (1/19) for MS thoghte or welth (1/28) for MS wethth seem to have no clear reasoning behind them. Certainly the latter case seems more expedient. Occasionally a missing word, such as a (9/25), makes reading difficult. No doubt badly (5/90) was intended to be boldly. These listings are by no means complete. Some ofthem result from a copy editor's missing the error. Beadle's discussion of editorial procedures ad­ dresses the use of punctuation, abbreviations, and marginalia in the manuscript, and it might also include more information about some ofthe silently handled matters. Even with these problems, Beadle's edition has many merits. Providing us with a newly edited text is indeed itself valuable. It is an edition most useful to advanced scholars rather than to students. Its cost seems excessive when compared with the cost of editions of other cycle plays in the EETS series with which its format agrees favorably. No edition is ever perfect. Every reviewer wouldhave the editor to answer his own desires. Beadle gives us a text which will replace the earlier Lucy Toulmin Smith edition as the standard. DANIEL F. PIGG University of Tennessee C. DAVID BENSON. Chaucer's Drama ofStyle: Poetic iilriety and Contrast in the Canterbury Tales. Chapel Hill and London: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1986. Pp. viii, 183. $20.00. This well-written book challenges the tendency of generations of Chau­ cerians critics to construe The Canterbury Tales as disclosures ofthe person176 REVIEWS alities oftheir tellers. Benson argues against the links between the pilgrims and their tales as reliable interpretive vantage points: "The links are interesting in themselves, but they are less important than the poems they enclose" (p. 10). Carefully rehearsing the critical history of the "dramatic theory" from Kittredge until recent times, Benson proposes that the variety of the tales "ought not be attributed to the psyches of the pilgrims but to the different styles of the poems" (p. 20), each poem having its own "poetics." Instead of looking for "unity" in The Canterbury Tales, Benson highlights their "variety and conflict." This leads to his metaphorical claim that "The Canterbury Tales is not a dramatic clash ofdifferent pilgrims but a literary contest among different poets" (p. 20). Lest the reader be worried that Benson is suggesting "as is fashionable in literary analysis these days that its subject is poetry itself" (p. 24), he reassures us that Chaucer is not "frivolous" but is a "Christian poet who uses stylistic variety to instruct as well as delight" (p. 25). What looks like an attempt to free Chaucerian criticism from the Romantic notion that literature is a mise en scene ofsubjectivity is hardly a restitution ofpoetry for its own sake, then. Rather, Benson's critical tactic is first,todenythetalestheirstatusaspersonalutterances,nextto affirmtheir status as poetic objects which impress by their variety; then Benson limits the "poetic" function of the individual tales by his claim that Chaucer the Christian offers his readers "an exhilarating training in judgment" (p. 25) which leaves readers free "to decide the relationship and value of the different tales" (p. 25). Benson's notion of "style" is never clearly defined, even though he names such texts as the Bible, the Metamorphoses and Boethius's Consolation as precursors for Chaucer's performance. It is odd that Benson does not mention Augustine's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 176-178
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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