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REVIEWS cio's triumph ofLove finds his counterpart in The LegendofGood Women, which, like the Boccaccian triumph, mixes first-person involvement in contemporary politics with praise for ancientladies. In the Boccaccian text, as in all these Chaucerian poems, the narrator hungers perennially for fresh experiences, and yet (unlike the Dantean pellegrino) he seems to learn nothing from them. Boccaccio's final, climactic cantos shift us to the climax of Troilus and Cn'seyde, where the impulse to seek virtue through love (sexual satisfaction) is pitted against the conquest of love through virtue (sexualabstinence). The Vzsione's judgment on fame seems, finally, to cast a shadow over the road to Canterbury and the pursuit of vernacular authorship. April brings green grass and a season for fame; September brings Death andJudgment (33.22-27): It is true that some, more valorous than others, merited fame; yet even if the world endure, their glorious names shall die. For fame is like the grass which Aries pushes forth for you; then, later, Libra arrives and turns it dry and brown. DAVID WALLACE University of Texas at Austin E.JANE BURNS. Arthurian Fictions: Rereading the Vulgate Cycle. Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 1985. Pp. 208. $22.00. In Arthunan Fictions: Rereading the Vulgate Cycle, E.Jane Burns does just that-reread the Cycle, and her reading is not one which will delight traditionalistcritics. What she does is largely reject all previous accounts of the Vulgate Cycle and argue for a completely new interpretation based on the principles of rhetorical ornamentation, specifically that of repetitio. The key to the Cycle lies not in allegory or entrelacement but in repetition ofand variation upon a limitednumber ofnarrativestructuresby which the text is in effect constantly in the process ofretelling, actually reproducing itselfas text. Thus, the purpose ofthe Vulgate writers was not to legitimize a basically profane story by imposing a loose allegorical frame upon it and pretending to divine or semi-divine authority, but to promote the genera­ tion of the text itself and apparently revel in the very act of literary 195 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER creation- to produce the very idolatry ofwords condemned by the Church Fathers: [I]t is through narrative repetition that the Vulgate texts proclaim boldly if indi­ rectly the importance of literary creation, legitimizing the role of vernacular romance by underscoring through a sheer mass of words the significance of the verbum as opposed to the Verbum. [P. 5J Further, according to Burns, The Truth of Scripture is thus replaced with many competing fictional truths as the auctoritas of the biblical Word is overshadowed by the authoritative voice of Ii contes, and what purports to be an allegorical sense is absorbed into the fiction of romance. [P. 79] If Burns had said that this was what the Vulgate writers had done in effect, I would have little objection, but she goes on to claim for the writers a subversive and deliberately heretical intent through the use of repeated episodes to "thematize and thereby appropriate into fiction the derogatory judgments advanced in the Church Fathers' condemnation of literature" (pp. 80-81). Arguing against theory of structural unity of the Cycle advanced by Vinaver, Lot, Frappier, and others, Burns maintains such claims for unity are in error because numerous episodes fail to fit clearly into such a plan, and that what appears to be allegory is merely analogy, a variant retelling, even in the Queste. What Burns is saying in effect is that because the plan is imperfect, there is no plan, that since the allegory is flawed, there is no allegory. However, after systematically working her way through the romances, Burns succeeds only in finding a sort of pattern to the seemingly endless repetitions and variations: It is difficult to define the Vulgate patternsperse since they are never found or seen in toto . ... A pattern could be described, in one sense, as a narrative register or template, a preverbal abstract entity that has an endless variety ofpositive realiza­ tions. All that weseearetheindividual realizationsofit, theverbalizedallomorphs. Yet, the pattern remains undefinable and indescribable apart from its manifesta­ tion in these motifs. [P. 140J 196 REVIEWS Ultimately she settles upon a general pattern of imprisonment...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 195-198
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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