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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER (p. 263; Staley and Aers's emphasis). The balance of this statement, as well as its refusal to respect the old dichotomies between sacred and sec­ ular that still structure our field, should inspire much further thinking along the lines pursued here. Despite the periodic dogmatism of this book, it deserves our admi­ ration for its acute readings of difficult and important texts, for its de­ sire to raise questions as well to settle them (the epilogue indeed lists several such questions) and, above all, for the sheer energy and joy ofits approach to its subject matters. The book will probably make some enemies or, at least, confirm old enmities, perhaps most heatedly as a result ofits discussions ofgender and power, and ofits particular brand of Marxist historicism. It remains, though, a wonderfully creative contriburion to Middle English studies: a book that has the knack of leaving its readers at once better informed and at the same time freer to pursue their own inquiries into the field, invigorated by what they have learned. If scholarly collaborations are this much fun, and this produc­ tive, let us have more of them. NICHOLAS WATSON University of Western Ontario ANN W. AsTELL. Chaucer and the Universe of Learning. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996. Pp. xvi, 254. $35.00. It is difficult to do justice in a briefreview to such a plenitude oflearn­ ing marshalled in support ofa catena offresh, bold, and provocative ar­ guments. Ann Astell's multifaceted thesis elaborated first in her preface asserts that The Canterbury Tales is a summa whose social estate exposi­ tion in The General Prologue is succeeded by a philosophical summa in ex­ emplary tales; that the contest of tales mirrors the scholastic quaestiones and academic competitions of Chaucer's day; and that the Ellesmere redactor orders the tales into a pattern of planetary descent and ascent which makes of pilgrimage and its roadside entertainment on the bumpy road to Canterbury a smooth philosophical soul-journey through the planetary spheres. All of this constitutes, she argues adroitly, an intellectual dialogue with Gower's Confessio Amantis, book 226 REVIEWS 7, and a story-telling contest with Dante's Paradiso. The Dantean trace is not new, but the details are fresh and stimulating, and more com­ pelling than the Gower nexus. The elaboration of her polyform argument occupies an introduction, seven chapters, and a brief conclusion. The introduction argues that Chaucer's intellectual milieu and his audience were neither gentry nor nobility, but a new class of nonclerical clerks consisting of a social in­ telligentsia in the educated upper-middle class. She points to The House of Fame with its na"ive narrator as a model for the structure of The Canterbury Tales, and points to the fragments or story-block divisions of the Tales into which the redactor of the Ellesmere text set the tales in imitation of the planetary scheme of a Macrobian soul and body jour­ ney (pp. 27-30). The first chapter, "Chaucer and The Division of Clerks," argues that the Ellesmere scribe would have us read the Tales like the clerks to whom the Parson appeals for correction. Chaucer's own Clerk reflects a "clericized" fourth estate (p. 54), in association with the Knight's bella­ tores, the Plowman's laboratores, and the Parson's oratores. Other pil­ grims, including the Wife of Bath, speak for and as clerks whenever they exhibit their knowledge (p. 59). The second chapter, "The Divisions of Knowledge," announces the Ellesmere Tales as a summa of analogies between divisions of knowledge and divisions of social estates "as part ofa conscious dialogue" among Chaucer and Gower and Dante. In this respect, the Tales reopens philosophy, submits Dante's Paradiso, brought to earth, to interpretation by the pilgrims, and itself consti­ tutes a Convivio that matches branches of Philosophy with planetary spheres in exemplary stories and story blocks (p. 85). Chapter 3, "From Saturn to the Sun: Planetary Pilgrimage in Fragments I and IX," imitates the tour through the chiasmic order of the tales, whose first fragment rehearses a planetary pilgrimage de­ scending from the Knight's Saturn through the Miller'sJupiter and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 226-229
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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