This article examines the power dynamics of erotic secret-keeping and revelation in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer uses competing discourses of secrecy (fin'amors, romance, fabliau, and epic history) in order to draw attention to the fantasies in which his characters—and by implication his readers—indulge about alternative actions within and endings for the narrative. While the critical discussion of power and the play of genres in the poem has been robust, scholars have paid less attention to secrecy in Troilus and Criseyde as it underpins Chaucer's representations of power and use of genres. I argue that the power dynamics of secrecy not only structure the characters' competing bids for narrative control but also enable Chaucer's audiences to examine our own impulses and fantasies as we interpret the poem. Discourses of secrecy prompt a consideration of the partial nature of knowledge and show Chaucer grappling with two questions about knowledge and narrative: how do we know what we know about the stories we read, and how does that knowing influence our reading? Chaucer's characters ask versions of these questions, inviting audiences to ask them as well.


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pp. 617-639
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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