restricted access The Cambridge History of the English Language: Volum II, 1066–1476 ed. by Norman Blake (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER ably that her example expands and modifies the stereotypes of femininity. Her own taxonomy, however, seems to follow the stereotypes. Her wives are, like the Wife of Bath's husbands, either "good" or "bad." She excludes Dorigen from her discussion as "a very human woman" and her story as "a tale that does not illuminate Christian values," though the narrator specifi­ cally evaluates his pagan characters in Christian terms, relates their actions to the liturgical calendar, and ventures the hypothesis that the happy out­ come may be due to grace. If Biscoglio wished to eschew complexity, it might have been better to omit Criseyde than to relegate her to a paren­ thesis listing other works dealing with "feminine nature." Her stark op­ position of medieval and modern approaches is no more subtle, implying that each is unitary and that there is no possible negotiation between them, while her characterization of feminist criticism is simplistic. The secondary and slanted quality ofher discussion can be illustrated by this sentence: "McKane's comment that 'within her little world [the Val­ iant Woman} may have been an absolute ruler' suggests a reading that feminists would agree with" (p. 15). Do "feminists" seek only signs of female domination in the literature of the past and "disagree" with evi­ dence to the contrary? At least one feminist study of Chaucer, Jill Mann's, which Biscoglio does not mention, discusses the suffering of his heroines as an imitation of Christ. Biscoglio concludes by claiming that a historical perspective, such as her own, may lead us to an appreciation of Gavin Douglas's description of Chaucer as "wommanis frend." She has missed his point. Douglas is con­ victing Chaucer of unhistorically misreading the Aeneidbecause of his sym­ pathy with women, precisely the accusation that Biscoglio makes of femi­ nist critics of Chaucer. PRISCILLA MARTIN University of London NORMAN BLAKE, ed. The Cambridge History ofthe English Language: Vol­ ume II, 1066-1476. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Pp. xxi, 703. $120.00. This volume is the second to appear in what will be a six-volume work. The first volume, on Old English, has already appeared, and the other 160 REVIEWS volumes are forthcoming. The third will roughly span the period of Early Modern English (1476-1776 are the dates given in the subtide), and the fourth will treat developments after 1776. The fifth and sixth volumes aim at regional coverage: the sixth ofEnglish in North America and the fifth of other regions both inside and outside the British Isles. According to Rich­ ard Hogg, the general editor for the project, these volumes will provide an "intermediate" coverage of the history of the language, going into much more detail than that provided by the longer one-volume histories (e.g., the accounts of Barbara Strang and of Albert Baugh and Thomas Cable). As such, the volumes will be most useful for graduate students who are already familiar with the basic facts about the development of English and for scholars who are specialists in areas aside from those covered in the individual volumes or chapters. If the forthcoming volumes are as impres­ sive as the first two, this project will be, as the publishers intend, the most authoritative reference on the history of English for many years to come. The organization of volume 2 is similar to that of volumes 1, 3, and 4: all of them contain chapters focusing mainly on structural areas. Thus volume 2 has chapters with the following titles and authors: "Introduc­ tion" (Norman Blake), "Phonology and Morphology" (Roger Lass), "Mid­ dle English Dialectology" (James Milroy), "Syntax" (Olga Fischer), "Lexis and Semantics" (David Burnley), "The Literary Language" (also by Blake), and "Onomastics" (the late Cecily Clark). Each chapter reviews facts that will be familiar to most readers (for example, the loss of dual-number pronouns in the course ofMiddle English), but each also surveys numerous specialized studies-and many recent ones at that-which are not as widely known, such as a study by Angus McIntosh of the regional prove­ nance ofHavelok the Dane and the work ofGillian Fellows-Jensen on Scan­ dinavian place names. Most Chaucerians will probably be...