In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER hedges his bets by describing the Prologue as an "interface" between anti­ feminism and its opponents, a term that neutralizes the complexity of concerns that this poem has raised about the social construction of feminin­ ity (and masculinity), the historical development of female character, and the relations between writing and misogyny and between (male) writer and (female) reader. And while this comment may reflect only my own exhaus­ tion, I also think that we may have exhausted this particular vein of in­ quiry and would have welcomed some new expansion of the field as we move into the twenty-first centuty. Chaucer's poetry takes up "the woman question" in many places that few nonspecialists ever hear about, but this volume once again represents Chaucer in the most familiar (if still puz­ zling) way. As Blamires notes, Woman Defamed is the first anthology of medieval antifeminism since Utley's very different volume, The Crooked Rib (1944), and it is interesting to speculate about the conditions that enable this kind of project, executed in this particular way in the 1990s, the putative post­ feminist era. Feminist concerns have apparently been mainstreamed suffi­ ciently to generate at least a modest market for such a collection, while the urgency and the complexity of some concerns have been diluted or erased. Studying the often contradictory, difficult, and deeply powerful cultural workings of texts like the ones anthologized here, however, should be a worthwhile and ongoing enterprise. ELAINE TurrLE HANSEN Haverford College JOHN M. BOWERS, ed. The Canterbury Tales: Fifteenth-Century Continua­ tions and Additions. TEAMS Middle English Texts Series. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Pp. viii, 200. $7.95 paper. English literary works of the fifteenth centuty have a reputation for dull­ ness, lack of originality, and an unthinking dependence on Chaucer as their literaty model. Consequently, these texts are hardly ever considered worth teaching. It comes as a surprise, then, that John M. Bowers edits, for the TEAMS Middle English Texts Series, a group of blatantly "imitative" con­ tinuations and additions to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for classroom use. 166 REVIEWS Lydgate's Prologue to the Siege of Thebes, The Ploughman's Tale, The Cook's Tale, The Tale ofBeryn and its prologue, and a few spurious links are thus made available to students, together with a short glossary, useful notes, and modern English equivalents of Middle English words in the margins. Since, additionally, the texts have been made to look familiar to present­ day readers through the use of capitalization, modern punctuation, and the replacement of the scribes' alphabets and spelling with today's standardized conventions of writing and spelling, students are presented with texts which are as easy to read as any more recent narrative poem. While, by his representation of the texts themselves, the editor is most successful in: his attempt to remove the "alteriry" of these late-medieval works, the very same ambition of making us familiar with the Chaucerians tempted him to write a preface and a general introduction which neglect to mention the literary-historical significance of the works so treated. Intro­ ducing himself as an amiable fellow ("I sat back and asked myself . . ."; p. vii), he urgently wants his students to see in the topics raised by his texts purely political contributions to medieval literature rather than "de­ constructions" of the medieval view of the world. Thus the main reason Bowers gives for the importance of his texts is their contribution to "the promotion of the English language as part of a burgeoning nationalism during the headier days of the Hundred Years' War" (p. 2), and this nation­ alistic task is supported by their anti-Lollardian dimensions. It emerges, then, that the completion, by Chaucer's editors and imitators alike, of the project of The Canterbury Tales was intended to stabilize England's political and religious status quo. Naturally this view leads to a number of absurd claims only one example of which need be given. By drawing a parallel between the Lancastrian persecution of the Lollards and the Nazi crimes against the Jews (as if one could compare these local skirmishes with industrialized extermination!), Bowers makes even ironical...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 166-168
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.