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REVIEWS ests of the middle classes and the circulation of Chaucer's writings among them. Nevertheless, for Edwards's able synthesis ofearlier work on the volume, and his several contributions to it, we must be very grateful. Gratitude is due also to Paul Ruggiers, the general editor of a facsimile series that is providing means and encouragement for the further study ofthe text and readership of Chaucer's writings and allowing all teachers of Chaucer to bring their students much closer to his writings as they were known to their medieval readers. GEORGE R. KEISER Kansas State University JUDITH FERSTER. Chaucer on Interpretation. Cambridge, London, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Pp. x, 194. $29.95. At first sight the title ofJudith Ferster's book comes asa surprise. One would expect something like The Interpretation ofChaucer, that is, a reversal of the subject-object relationship, because we are used to pronouncing our critical opinions on Chaucer's works, often claiming, of course, to present the author's trueand original meaning reconstructedfrom a carefulanalysis of his cultural context. Hence a book which interprets the meaning of contextuality in a dialectic sense, i.e., the interdependence of text and interpreter, runs counter to the traditional author-text-reader models of interrelation in which the reader interprets but is not interpreted by the texts or tries to discover the final and absolute meaning of a given work. Judith Ferster's approach to Chaucer, his works, and his audience is based on the principles ofphenomenological hermeneutics as formulated mainly in the works ofGadamer and Ricoeur. These principles -to the extent that they are useful for interpreting Chaucer-are identified as follows: (1) the subjectivity of the interpreter; (2) the alterity or otherness of the work he confronts; (3) the influence oftradition on the interpreter's prejudgment, a tradition including the very text he is reading; (4) the resulting her­ meneutical cycle ofsubject-object relationship; (5) the act ofinterpretation resulting in a process of self-discovery; and (6) interpretation as a never­ ending process (pp. 12-13). With these methodological principles estab­ lished, she proceeds with her dialectical interpretation of five Chaucerian 215 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER narratives and the narrative framework of The Canterbury Tales. The order of the six chapters is as follows: The Knight's Tale, The PaliamentofPowis, The Book ofthe Duchess, The Clerk's Tale, The Wife ofBath's Prologue, and the frame of The Canterbury Tales. The focus of her discussion is on three areas in which Chaucer explores the interaction between mind and world-personal identity, political power, and literary meaning. The Knight's Tale, for instance, presents the paradox that each person is fundamentally alone and yet intricately linked to others. The links come about partly through interpretation, ofwhich there are two kinds in the tale. In the first kind, one person attempts in good faith to understand the view of another. In the second, one person projects his own intentions and desires onto the other, perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps in order to control him. [P. 24] To demonstrate her thesis, Ferster selects six key scenes showing that the tale lacks authoritative interpretation, even though characters such as Theseus would like to impose their view of the world for personal and political reasons. Central to The ParliamentofFowls for Ferster are the inscriptions on the gate, which she regards as analogues for Chaucer's text, while the narrator in the poem is an analogue for Chaucer's audience (p. 49). To make interpretation possible takes an act of will, here provided in the guise of Africanus, who pushes the narrator through the gate. However, at the momentthe willbeginsto operate and remove the inertia, thedangerexists that experience will be prejudiced or completely subjective. Still, the poem advocates this action, expressing itself through reading which equals inter­ pretation and through writing, that is, Chaucer's own transformation of his sources. TheBook oftheDuchess, it is argued, demonstrates the dangers of will in interpretation. Again we encounter "the insoluble problem of the isolation of the self, or of successful communication between the narrator and the Black Knight, or of the formation of a new relationship in which two selves...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 215-218
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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