restricted access Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde: “Subgit to alle Poesye”: Essays in Criticism ed. by R. A. Shoaf (review)
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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER poet; helps elucidate the meaning of lyric passages "imbedded" in longer narrative works; and enables one to determine more accurately the innova­ tions Chaucer made in the traditions within which he was working. LIAM PuRDON Doane College R. A. SHOAF, ed. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: "Subgit to a/le Poesye": Essays in Criticism. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 104. Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992. Pp. xviii, 270. $30.00 cloth, $10.00 paper. The project of making Troilus and Criseyde accessible to students is one of the more promising recent developments in scholarship on the poem. C. David Benson (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990) and Allen Frantzen (New York: Twayne, 1993) have authored fine guides to the poem for an undergraduate audience. Likewise, R. A. Shoaf's edition of Troilus and Cri­ seyde (East Lansing, Mich.: Colleagues Press, 1989), with its well-placed glosses and sensible introduction, makes an excellent classroom text of the poem. This collection of essays represents a laudable extension of the task Shoaf undertook in editing Troilus for the classroom. Having prepared the poem for student use, Shoaf, together with Catherine Cox, the editorial assistant for the collection, has now made some of the best contemporary criticism ofthe poem available to students in an affordable and comprehen­ sible format. Nine ofthe sixteen essays in this collection appear here for the first time, while the remaining seven are reprinted from articles and books. The ear­ liest articles in the collection are Stephen Barney's "Troilus Bound," which first appeared in 1972, and Sheila Delany's "Techniques of Alienation in Troilus andCriseyde," which came out in 1976. The balance ofthe reprinted articles are from the 1980s and 1990s and include excerpts from two recent books: Benson's guide to Troilus and Carolyn Dinshaw's Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989). Together with the new material, the reprinted essays in the collection provide a balanced and remarkably up-to-date perspective on critical approaches to Troilus and Criseyde. The subtitle to the volume, "Subgit to a/le Poesye," taken from the envoy 260 REVIEWS to the poem (5.1790), provides a loose organizing theme for the collection. In their prefatory remarks Shoafand Cox take this line to mean that Troilus "has poetry as its subject," and they assert that the poem is "perhaps most remarkable for its self-consciousness" (p. vii). Fortunately, however, this theme is not strictly imposed upon the collection. Some of the essays are directly concerned with the self-conscious nature of the poem. John Fyler, for example, argues in "The Fabrications of Troilus" that the Ovidian ele­ ments in the poem call into question the nature of artifice and serve to "(jar} loose our normal sense of the substantiality and palpable texture of events" (p. 107). Similarly, Rosemarie McGerr argues in "Meaning and Ending in a'Paynted Process'" that throughout the poem, but particularly in the ending, Chaucer "calls attention to the artificial nature of narrative structure" (p. 189). Other essays, including Barney's study of images of entrapment and Louise Fradenburg's "'Our owen wo to drynke': Loss, Gen­ der and Chivalry in Troilus andCriseyde," which examines the poem against the background of "cultural practices of violence in the later fourteenth century" (p. 88), are only tangentially concerned with what Shoaf and Cox call the "metatextuality" of Troilus. The great strength ofthis collection is its diversity; readings ofthe poem informed by feminism, psychology, Marxism, semiotics, and reader­ response criticism are happily housed here. Roland Barthes is the most frequently invoked theorist in the collection, and one of the pleasures of this text lies in comparing how different critics account for the same fea­ tures in Troilus. Thus, for example, Benson sees the ambiguity in Criseyde's utterance, "Who yaf me drynke?" (2.651) as an integral part of an "open text" in which Chaucer invites readers to "create their own Criseydes" (p. 28), while Delany claims that the same utterance serves to portray Criseyde's passivity and thereby leads to a critique of the ideology of ro­ mance (p. 37). Likewise, McGerr and Richard Neuse offer different...


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