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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER coming away with the impression of Blake's bias, as clearly expressed in his historical works, against the literary, critical, philosophical, and theoretical in favor of the material, economic, and historical. One finds the best annotations on the influence of patronage and other economic forces on Caxton'spressand finds verylittle on Caxton's critical abilities. However, in a "Bibliographical Guide" one does not necessarily expect consistently useful, detailed annotations. The ones that aregiven-many with internal cross references to other entries or references to reviews-are most wel­ come, but even so, it is difficult not to get a bit spoiled by the good entries and expect this standard throughout. Perhaps, a good editor would have demanded just this kind of consistency. This review will conclude with two strong recommendations. One, Garland Press should hire better editors and typesetters. After a few pages, one quickly tires of inked-in accent marks, quotation marks used for umlaut signs, and superscripts that run into the line above them. Also, a good editor is necessary for catching all typographical errors that the author and his secretary cannnot possibly be responsible for. Two, I strongly recommend using this book. It would be a most useful addition especially to the shelf of one interested in the transition from scribe to printer in English culture. Anyone who is to say a word about Caxton from now on must first consult this text. JOHN M. CRAFTON University of Tennessee R. HOWARD BLOCH. The Scandal ofthe Fabliaux. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Pp. x, 156. $22.50. The basic argument of this book, that the fabliaux portray "a universe in which language seems to have lost purchase upon the world" (p. 16), is valuable and appealing to the degree that it addresses certain essential concerns neglected or distorted by earlier studies which perversely insisted on viewing the genre as a reflection of social reality or as an ironic restate­ ment of conventional moral principles. Equally attractive are Bloch's con­ clusions, that the fabliau corpus exhibits the effects of a pervasive and profound isotopic discordance such as characterizes also the literary world of the joke and the psychological phenomenon of fetishism. What I find 190 REVIEWS less convincing is the approach adopted for demonstrating the validity of thisthesis, the idea that thefabliauxarticulate a perceivedanalogybetween the relationship of signifier to signified and that of clothes to the body. No fabliau text explicitly asserts such an association, but, given the multiplicity and diversity of the fabliaux, the absence of this kind of corroboration does not seriously compromise the argument. Its accept­ ability depends rather on the persuasiveness of the author's treatment of two related issues. The first concerns the frequency in the texts studied of references to clothes, which exhibit an inadequacy to fit their wearers akin to the incapacity of signifiers to capture the reality of what is signified, and of references to dead bodies or their dismembered parts, which, like the material phenomena of the natural world, attract a variety of disparate designations in an ultimately capricious and aleatory fashion. The second issue concerns the validity of this interpretation of the significance of the clothes and body images. There are problems with both. In the search for evidence to support his theories about how and what the fabliaux mean, Bloch frequently has recourse to texts which are generally perceived as marginal to the fabliau canon. The introduction deals at length with Le Roi d'Angleterre et le}ongleur d'Ely; the first chapter makes similar use of Le Mantel mautaille. Neither work appears in the fabliau inventory of Noomen and Boogaard's Nouveau recueil comp/et des fabliaux. The same is true for Audigier, Richeut, and numerous other pieces whose incorporation into the discussion is defended on the question­ able grounds that they appeared in the ancient and notoriously eclectic Barbazan and Meon anthology. The analogy between signifying reality and clothing the body is estab­ lished through a promiscuous ransacking of semantic levels. At the most abstract it would appear to depend on some semic opposition of the "container" versus the "contained" type. At the most concrete it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 190-193
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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