- About This Issue
We are pleased to present New Feminist Approaches to Chaucer, a special issue organized by guest editors Samantha Katz Seal and Nicole Sidhu. In the last quarter of the last century, feminism broadly transformed how medieval studies is conducted, and it has deeply impacted our reception and teaching of Chaucer's oeuvre. This critical trend shows no sign of abatement in the twenty-first century. The latest two special issues of The Chaucer Review both utilized feminist approaches. They were: Women's Literary Culture and Late Medieval English Writing, guest edited by Liz Herbert McAvoy and Diane Watt, Chaucer Review 51.1 (2016): 1–129; and Looking Forward, Looking Back in the Legend of Good Women, guest edited by Betsy McCormick, Lynn Shutters, and Leah Schwebel, Chaucer Review 52.1 (2017): 1–166.
Now we are proud to publish a third special issue—creating, quite serendipitously, something of a trilogy. While some may occasionally wonder if there is anything new left to say on the topic of Chaucer and women, our contributors and readers clearly feel otherwise. As editors of The Chaucer Review, we too sense the subject's ongoing vibrancy.
By now, of course, the discernible details of Chaucer's attitudes regarding female empowerment, gender permeability, and sexual constraint have been interrogated extensively from a wide variety of theoretical and conceptual perspectives. The poet has been variously condemned for his [End Page 221] patriarchal attitudes, sexist stereotyping, and personal failings; praised for his sympathetic protofeminist interest in women's lives, possibilities, and thought; and, very frequently, explicated with respect to his particular treatment of specific women characters. The authors of the articles in New Feminist Approaches to Chaucer push our interrogation of Chaucer's gender politics further than these methods typically take us, finding their inspiration especially in current feminist thinking about the strength of horizontal communities and their capacity to resist male-inflected vertical power structures.
Theories of intersectional feminism that explicitly link race and gender as impacted by repressive institutions inform Suzanne Edwards's reading of the Franklin's Tale for its achronological allusions to Gloria Naylor's Bailey's Cafe. Concerns associated with the empowerment generated by the #MeToo movement guide Carissa Harris's reading of race and resistant sisterhood in the Legend of Philomela, where Chaucer's treatment of rape and female response is so different from what is found in the accounts of Ovid and Gower. Samantha Katz Seal challenges the always implicit, often explicit gender prejudices that insiduously inflect putatively historicist, uniformly demeaning evaluations of Philippa Chaucer. Nicole Sidhu asks us to reconsider the assumptions that have allowed a focus on January's gendered enactment of power over his wife to overshadow the striking parallels in January's exercise of socioeconomic power over Damian, such that wife and squire resist together the hierarchies of dominance in the Merchant's Tale. New understandings enabled by feminist and queer theories of temporality inspire Tara Williams to rethink the repetitive narrative structure in the Legend of Good Women, wherein the idea of kalender is a recurring metaphor. Emma Lipton explores how current theorizations of activist feminism provide models for effecting social change, enabling us to reevaluate the triumph of feminist contractual education at the close of the Wife of Bath's Tale. The Knight's Tale provides the grounds for Holly Crocker's proposal that Chaucer's treatment of Emily challenges the gender politics of his day by urging an egalitarian feminist subjectivity based on effectively yielding rather than futilely wielding power.
We join our guest editors Samantha Katz Seal and Nicole Sidhu in hoping that these stimulating articles in new feminism will stimulate fresh waves of thought about how one might read Chaucer. As our human understanding of [End Page 222] how gender and power intersect in society continues to evolve and hopefully effect some positive change, our responses to the literature we teach will necessarily advance in tandem. [End Page 223]
Issue 54.2 contained an error in the printing of the second paragraph on p. 217. The phrasing "John, priorship of Hatfield Regis" has been adjusted to "John, prior of Hatfield Regis." The online...