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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Arthur Lovejoy and Emil Wolff-the catena aurea as the dominating dramatic principle in Chaucer's spiritual and textual world on the basis ofhighly nuanced semantic and solid philological observations, to con­ centrate on an "exposition ofChaucer's play with ideas" (p. 16) and not on a history ofideas or mentalite, is only weakened by this curiously apologetic captatio. Although the volume could have gained through a final round ofeditorial fine-tuning (see, e.g., the book's back flap, which inverts the content ofchapters 5 and 6, and a number ofunfortunate typos) as well as through the inclusion ofKatherine Tachau's Vision and Certitude in the Age ofOckham (Leiden: Brill, 1988) and Linda Holley's Chaucer's Measuring Eye (Houston: Rice University Press, 1990) on the topic of"sight," Taylor's investigation, in its learnedness and accuracy, is a welcome contribution to the ideologized realm ofChaucer studies in the nineties. Once one has accepted its basic (moral?) premise, the book's impressive array ofdetailed philosophic and linguistic analysis and its depth ofinterpretive insight (esp. on the connectedness or me­ diation ofsight and word, time and narrative form, memory and design) rival Jerome Mandel's recent Geoffrey Chaucer: Building the Fragments of the Canterbury Tales (1992), which attracted, not surprisingly, the same publisher. RICHARD J. UTZ University ofTiibingen / University ofNorthern Iowa N. S. THOMPSON. Chaucer, Boccaccio, and the Debate of Love: A Comparative Study of The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Pp. x, 364. $72.00. The author ofthis engaging and learned work insists that he is out to prove only that it takes more than the search for verbal parallels to in­ vestigate the possible connections between The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales. He also acknowledges that the kind ofevidence for in­ fluence that he explores is not likely to change the minds ofthose who will admit nothing less than positive evidence in such matters. Yet he is himself convinced that his comparative readings of the two works yield results that show, at least, stronger connections between them than have been hitherto shown, ifnot conclusive reasons for believing 336 REVIEWS Chaucer knew and used Boccaccio's Decameron when he wrote The Canterbury Tales. And this is exactly as it should be ifone is to revive this old question from the affirmative point ofview. Some readers, however, may find Thompson's approach as old-fash­ ioned as the question it addresses, for his account ofwhat happens when we look beyond what the textual eye sees is based on critical resources that are largely traditional in their interpretive orientation. The book's carefully argued thesis depends almost exclusively upon close and com­ plex readings of the framing structures of The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales and ofspecific parallel narratives within those struc­ tures. The cultural context ofthe study has been defined predominantly by the conventions ofliterary and intellectual history. Recent theoreti­ cal paradigms and systems are scantly present in Thompson's method, though he does use the term reader-response (without reference to Kenneth Burke) to name one ofthe intended effects ofBoccaccio's and Chaucer's narrative strategies upon their audiences. Though this will please some members ofour common Chaucerian enterprise more than it will others, it should not prevent anyone interested in the book's sub­ ject from giving it an open-minded reading. Thompson's organization ofhis argument follows a similar pattern throughout most ofthe book. First, a concept such as diversity (in chap­ ter 1) is introduced with some commentary on its medieval cultural par­ ticularities. This is followed by subsections in which the concept as it functions in Boccaccio and Chaucer is analyzed. These are, in turn, fol­ lowed by a comparative summary and conclusion. The topical concepts with which Thompson titles the remaining six chapters-Reading the Signs, The Literary Debate, The Autonomy of Fiction, The Comic Tales: Fabliaux or Novelle?, The Romances: Noble and Ignoble Love, and The Three Griseldas-give some idea ofthe shape ofthe work. In every chapter, Thompson writes with extraordinary attention to the de­ tails in the texts he has selected as the bases for his argument that The Canterbury Tales...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 336-339
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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