restricted access Troilus and Criseyde: The Poem and the Frame by Allen J. Frantzen (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS This volume will not foster those readings. Students who rely on the bibli­ ography and the introductions will be done a positive disservice. Finally, the publication of this volume makes it harder for someone else to sell the marketing department of some other press on trying to fill the gap that this volume claims to fill. "Better to abyde the bur than thro forth thy thro," the poet tells us in Patience. Those wishing for what this volume could have been will have to "abyde the bok" and have patience, though like this volume, "hit displese oft." JULIAN WASSERMAN Loyola University, New Orleans ALLEN J. FRANTZEN. Troilus and Criseyde: The Poem and the Frame. New York: Twayne, 1993. Pp. xiv, 158. $22.95 cloth, $7.95 paper. This volume appears in Twayne's Masterwork Studies, which purports to offer to the general reader "a lively critical reading of a single classic text." Frantzen's approach to Troilus andCriseyde leaves little doubt that Chaucer's romance is a classic text, and his analysis of the poem is, for the most part, lively and critically well informed. The book--especially its opening chapters-serves well as a supplementary text for undergraduates embark­ ing on the challenges of Chaucer's poem and its conceptual frameworks. The student will get a good sense from the book of what the more impor­ tant theoretical concerns of Chaucer studies entail and should come away stimulated to return to the poem with fresh ideas that are worth pursuing. Frantzen offers a well-balanced selected bibliography with concise annota­ tions as further guidance. Frantzen divides his presentation into two sections: first, a brief contex­ tualization of Troilus and Criseyde within social, historical, and literary cir­ cumstances; and, second, his "reading." In the first part (pp. 1-25) he situates Chaucer and the story of Troy in the chaos of fourteenth-century England and then efficiently traces the poem's critical reception and its readers' responses through the fifteenth century and on into recent times. To establish the poem's importance, Frantzen singles out its revitalization of classical concepts in its own day, the exuberance and power of its lan­ guage, the diversity of its concerns, and the challenges of its artistry. The 197 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER scholars Frantzen seems most interested in and influenced by in this first part are David Aers, Anne Middleton, and Paul Strohm. It is too bad that Seth Lerer's Chaucer and His Readers (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993) was not out in time to be mentioned in this portion ofFrant­ zen's discussion. In part 2, his "reading," Frantzen approaches the issues of the poem through concepts of framing. Chapter 4, "Looking Through and At the Frame," is, it seems to me, the most useful and provocative chapter in the book. Frantzen identifies several kinds offrames which are operative in and around the poem and which affect a reader's perception of meaning in the work, namely, "the unifying framework of narrative," the genre itself as frame, and the framing functions of what John Frow, Marxism and Literary History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), calls the "literary sys­ tems" which originate within the poet's courtly audience and multiply around the poem after his death-all ofwhich frameworks enable Frantzen to engage social and political concepts as well as structural issues in the course of his "reading." No frame is a neutral showcase, Frantzen observes, but rather makes claims about its subject: "The text is an event, not a static thing; it is charged with ideological assertions about social life, art, history, and other ideas that the reader must discover and uncover" (p. 42). Such ideological interests, concealed by symbolic systems, constitute the ele­ ments of framing. Though the frames manipulate us, we also manipulate them: "The frame can always be framed," and that is what self-conscious reading is (p. 45). In chapters 5 through 9, Frantzen proceeds through the poem book by book, discussing power structures within and without the poem as they mediate each other. Frantzen is thoughtful in his treatment of Pandarus's activities as framer of plots, people, and propaganda, particularly...