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REVIEWS makes some favorable ae;:;thetic judgments on Dunbar (pp. 185-86), while Seymour castigates regularly Capgrave's writing and scholarly abilities (for example,pp. 218,221,225,233-34,235). To borrow a term from Derek Pearsall,whose similarly constructed monograph on John Lydgate appeared in 1997,the present studies are "bio-bibliographies," whose primary purpose is to provide a solid foun­ dation for further study. Essentially,then,these studies concentrate on basic factual material, similar to what one might expect in a well­ crafted introduction to a modern EETS edition. Therein lies their util­ ity and value: they collect,synthesize,and print otherwise disparate materials and provide fair and expert guidance to the evaluation of the original sources and later scholarship. LISTER M. MATHESON Michigan State University GALE SIGAL. Erotic Dawn Songs ofthe Middle Ages: Voicing the Lyric Lady. Gainesville: University Press of Florida,1996. Pp. xii,241. $49.95. This careful and sensitive reading of the alba in Occitan,Old French, Middle High German,and Middle English is discreetly and convinc­ ingly revisionist in both its methods and conclusions. That it succeeds so well is testimony not only to Gale Sigal's scholarship but also,de­ pressingly,to the manner in which received opinion can be perpetuated for so long in the face of contrary evidence. The inability of students of the lyric to offer a proper assessment of the female voice in the alba is mainly due,Sigal argues,to their failure to distinguish the genre from the larger body of canso, of which it is usually considered a part. It is also refreshing to read a book that celebrates,like the alba, the vitality and eloquence of the female voice, rather than condemn the nature and causes of its repression. The introduction (pp. 1-20) provides a critical review of scholarship (in particular by Hatto,Savile,and Dronke) and briefly raises issues that will be treated in more detail in later chapters. In particular,Sigal notes the paradox of the female voice being articulated by what one must sup­ pose to be male authors; the empathy of male poets with the female sub­ ject transcends medieval misogyny and humanizes the courtly domna. 331 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER In chapter 1, "The Alba Lady: Literary Perspectives" (pp. 23-50), Sigal takes to task earlier scholars such as Savile and Fries for fitting the lady of the alba into existing, but inappropriate, categories, usually de­ rived from other genres of the courtly lyric. A brief review of the pre­ sentation of women in some narrativegenresprovides material for com­ parison, although the courtlyromance (where the similarities are surely greater) is given only passing mention. This chapter, like most of the others, also contains some sensitive detailed commentary on individual lyrics. The general humanization of the alba lady also implies un­ abashed intimacy and frank sexuality, resulting in a radically different presentation of women. Chapter 2, "The alba Lady: Sex Roles and Social Roles" (pp. 51-93), opens with the observation that in the alba, the lady often initiates the love affair, a fact once more overlooked by earlier scholars. The male­ dominated world is excluded from the alba, as the love relationships in these poems are defined by mutuality and reciprocity; the lovers, how­ ever, are seen as powerless to change the problematic situations in which they find themselves. Despite the frequent presence of the gelos, love in the alba is not always adulterous; the Middle High German tageliet and Chaucer's reworking of the genre in Troilus and Criseyde are cases in point. The relative social positions of the lovers form the subject of chapter 3, "Eros in the Socius" (pp. 94-130). Again, the alba forms a clear con­ trast with other lyric genres, since the relationship between the lovers is presented as horizontal rather than hierarchical. Despite the lover usu­ ally being technically the lady's social inferior, the significant social re­ lationship in the alba is that between the pair of lovers and the husband, the latter clearly socially superior. Yet as regards the lovers alone, the alba is subversive, since it disdains class as well as marriage; if the lovers are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 331-333
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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