restricted access The Tales of the Clerk and the Wife of Bath ed. by Marion Wynne-Davies (review)
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REVIEWS pectations. The generic character of Troilus, in Windeatt's reading, is the most distinctive aspect of the poem and the most important cause of its astonishing depth and richness. A brief review cannot do justice to the argument--especially as it enfolds the remainder of the volume---and I shall not try. I can only urge all to read it for themselves. Windeatt's guide ably summarizes previous scholarship and criticism and usefully extends the notes to the Riverside Chaucer (one of its stated intentions). There are, naturally, shortcomings; no single guide can be all things to all people. I note relatively little account of some kinds of theo­ retically informed readings, especially those that proceed from or focus on gender studies, narrative theory, and newer forms of psychoanalytic criti­ cism. It may simply be a measure of diverging tendencies in British and American Chaucer studies, but the summaries of criticism are markedly British in orientation. Thus, for example, among feminist readers of Troilus, Windeatt uses Priscilla Martin and Jill Mann but only mentions Carolyn Dinshaw. The fairness and temperance with which he treats ap­ proaches he does not share is an excellence ofthe book; still, I miss substan­ tial engagement with the best of these other approaches. For those inter­ ested in pursuing them, however, the final bibliography includes a good selection. The writing of such a guide might seem a modest task, performed in service to students and colleagues. Windeatt's accomplishment is to do this well and at the same time to offer far more. I expect his guide to serve us admirably for a long time to come. KARLA TAYLOR Universiry of Michigan MARION WYNNE-DAVIES, ed. The Tales ofthe Clerk and the Wife ofBath. London and New York: Routledge English Texts, 1992. Pp. viii, 210. $12.95 paper. This handy paperback of two feminist Chaucerian texts offers a complete compendium of resources--historical and contextual introduction, critical commentary, notes, glossary, and bibliography-primarily for students but of value to other scholars as well. Based on the Hengwrt manuscript (and amply defended-primarily because it has less editorial interference than 299 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER its only competitor, the Ellesmere), the texts contain four bracketed Elles­ mere additions (to The Wife ofBath's Tale, which she believes are "probably authorial revisions and thus must be included in the text"). Bottom-of-the­ page glosses facilitate reading the text. A brief section on language and form indicates changes in pronunciation and describes inflectional endings. This edition retains some Middle English spellings, keeping ily, ylg and oulow, but modernizes 3 toy or gh, regularizes ulv and ilj, and joins words such as ther by and with outen. Wynne-Davies's introductory section, aimed primarily at a student audi­ ence without prior knowledge of the plan of the Tales or the function of the tellers, is very useful.. Her discussion of the historic past is necessarily somewhat complex, but not excessively dense. The strongest parts, the interpretive "Cultural and Social Contextualization" and "Women in the Medieval Period," are of use to Chaucerian scholars as well. The excellent application of the effects of social unrest and individual determinism ap­ plied to the Wife, and her antithesis in the person of Griselda, is reasonable and informative. Despite acknowledging "Walter's irrational cruelty," the idealized picture she paints of the Clerk and "the tale's moral message of patience in the face of adversity" fail to suggest the extent of the latter's misogyny. The section on sources is nicely comprehensive, noting romance and folklore analogues; I cannot always make the leap, however, that, sim­ ply because Chaucer knew John Gower or Eustache Deschamps, he used their work when it did not circulate until 1390 or 1406, respectively­ after the "derived" tales in question were completed. The introduction locates the two tales properly within Kittredge's Mar­ riage Group but fails to consider explicitly his interactive, quiting-based dramatic theory; yes, many of the marriage tales are "confrontational" and represent "a case of incompatibility," but the regular and patterned quiting nature of the confrontation acted out in words, in out of the Tales, could be foregrounded more...