The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Anonymous. "Chaucer's Audience: Discussion." 18 (1983): 175-81.
This article is a transcription of the panel on Chaucer's audience at the April, 1982, meeting of the New Chaucer Society in San Fransisco. It followed four papers by Paul Strohm, Richard Firth Green, R. T. Lenaghan, and Patricia J. Eberle, also published in volume 18 (1983) of the Chaucer Review. The discussion includes contributions by Alan Gaylord, Richard Green, Lee Patterson, Paul Strohm, Rossell Hope Robbins, George Reineke, James Dean, Patricia Eberle, John Leyerle, John Fleming, Anne Middleton, and R. T. Lenaghan.
Bestul, Thomas H. "Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: The Passionate Epic and Its Narrator." 14 (1980): 366-78.
In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer creates a narrator whose story saddens him and who is concerned to express emotion in his own narrative. In Books II and III, the narrator's intrusions into the story become vehicles to express emotions the characters must feel and to keep the narrator in the readers' minds. The narrator's emotional involvement continues; it deepens as the work progresses, and in Book V, the narrator introduces the inexpressibility topos. Though he is saddened, the narrator distances himself from the action of the story, thereby demonstrating a Christian response that the audience should emulate.
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Chaucer's Rhyme Royal Tales and the Secularization of the Saint." 20 (1985): 113-31.
Chaucer's tales written in rhyme royal have a common focus on saints' lives and martyrs. In the Second Nun's, Clerk's, Prioress's, and Man of Law's Tales, divine justice controls the outcome of the tale. Even the Clerk's Tale teaches us that we should obey God in adversity. These tales all follow the traditional pattern of saints' lives and evoke a heightened emotional response from the audience. The rhyme royal tales complement each other, showing how secular values influence written accounts of saints' lives. Ultimately, however, such influence robs the stories of some vitality.
Eberle, Patricia J. "Commercial Language and the Commercial Outlook in the General Prologue." 18 (1983): 161-74.
The references to money in the Canterbury Tales show Chaucer's assumptions of a financially sophisticated audience aware of venal satire. In the courtly love tradition, money was spoken of only as a reward or gift, and commercial activities were ignored. The fabliau maintains this distinction, since characters focus on spending and earning. The General Prologue, however, assumes characteristics of both romance and fabliau, thus implying that Chaucer wrote for an audience that would appreciate both traditions. The Host points out that time is money and that poetry is idleness. The pilgrims treat each other in such a way as to suggest that professions, and therefore money, are closely linked to who people are.
Green, Richard Firth. "Women in Chaucer's Audience." 18 (1983): 146-54.
Historical records indicate that at court, men and women did not spend much time together. Most likely, the audience that heard Chaucer read his poetry aloud was entirely male, in part because the population of women at court was quite small. The increasing presence of women at court towards the end of the fourteenth century may account for the decline of the fabliau.
Luxon, Thomas H. "'Sentence' and 'Solaas': Proverbs and Consolation in the Knight's Tale." 22 (1987): 94-111.
In the Knight's Tale "sentence" and "solaas" frequently oppose each other. At the end of the tale Theseus propounds the belief that Fortune controls life, but the tale contains many seemingly irrational events. By forcusing on pain, Chaucer disrupts his audience's sense of an ordered world. Occasionally the narrator asks readers to share pain, but sometimes, the speaker seems to attempt to separate readers from the pain. Distancing techniques include clinical, descriptive language, occupatio, proverbs, and conventional wisdom. Finally, the Knight shows that "sentence" follows a struggle for "solaas."
McGavin, John J. "How Nasty is Phoebus's Crow?" 21 (1987): 44-58.
Chaucer alters his sources for the Manciple's Tale by eliminating material giving the crow a motive for revealing what he knows, and Chaucer removes the passage warning the crow about such an indiscretion. Chaucer also leaves out as much of the material that creates the plot of the story, thereby highlighting the narrator's digressions. The crow's speech to Phoebus is rhetorically structured, but does not suggest any particular emotion, especially since the tale has been carefully manipulated so as to eliminate the crow's motive. Chaucer also collapses the distance between the Manciple and the crow so that the two sound much alike. The crow's use of colloquial language matches his position with relation to Phoebus and the matter of which the crow speaks. In this tale, Chaucer makes the point that hearers often reject truth because they need to believe something else.
Pelen, Marc M. "Murder and Immortality in Fragment VI (C) of the Canterbury Tales: Chaucer's Transformation of Theme and Image from the Roman de la Rose." 29 (1994): 1-25.
The Pardoner's Tale and the Physician's Tale oppose each other, but together they present "refraction of a more urgent poetic truth" (4). Ultimately the argument of both tales is the grace of God that is beyond the circumscription of words. In both tales, Chaucer responds to earlier legends, discussing murder and immorality. Such considerations derive from Chaucer's veneration of themes and images in the Roman de la Rose. The Physician's Tale also reacts to portions of the Roman de la Rose, and borrows a number of images from it. In the Roman de la Rose, readers recognize the contrasting voices of Genius, Reason, and Nature, just as they identify the opposing voices of the Physician and the Pardoner. In both works the full meaning of the poetry is outside of the dialogue between characters and beyond that between the writer and his audience.
Pinti, Daniel J. "Governing the Cook's Tale in Bodley MS 686." 30 (1996): 379-88.
As the fifteenth-century Bodley MS 686 suggests, fifteenth-century scribes and readers did not recognize the inviolability of an author's text. The scribe of the Bodley MS clearly differentiates his voice from that of Chaucer, but develops the fundamental conflict between apprentice and master in the tale and also suggests an end to the story. His changes offer a different view of the themes of the tale and indicate the fifteenth-century conception of Chaucerian authority. The alternating voices throughout the telling of the tale create a story in dialogue and tell readers that they may view the story from different points of view. The scribe also plays on Perkyn's position as an apprentice to create a position for himself as a poet apprenticed to Chaucer. The text of the tale itself also becomes Chaucer's apprentice, but like Perkyn, it is recalcitrant, thus allowing the apprentice poet to demonstrate his poetic ability and to become the poetic master Chaucer. The scribe's participation in the text not only subjects it to necessary governing, but also negotiates the troubled waters of authority in the fifteenth century.
Reiss, Edmund. "Chaucer and His Audience." 14 (1980): 390-402.
Historical records tell little about Chaucer's audience. Chaucer, however, is clearly aware of his audience and of what that audience knows. Because Chaucer's audience knew classical authorities, he could play against their expectations without being misunderstood. Chaucer's various discussions of gentillesse are perfect examples of this dialogue between Chaucer and his audience. Court poetry, while expressing social concerns, presented answers already familiar and accepted by the audience. By playing with what his audience knows, Chaucer draws them into his work. He can also force them to consider the discrepancy between their ideal and what is real.
Ruffolo, Lara. "Literary Authority and the Lists of Chaucer's House of Fame: Destruction and Definition through Proliferation." 27 (1993): 325-41.
Though based on Dante's Commedia, the House of Fame works in the opposite direction, using lists of secular and sacred materials, jumbled together, to undermine literary authority. Fame's presentation draws attention to the fact that fame is often not deserved. Ultimately, Chaucer suggests that a poet's fame does not depend on the greatness of his art, but on the reception that his art receives, thus making the audience, not writing predecessors, the final authority.
Stevenson, Kay Gilliland. "Readers, Poets, and Poems within the Poem." 24 (1989): 1-19.
Chaucer examines the relationship between reader and poet in the Book of the Duchess. This exploration is most apparent in the narrator's reaction to Seys and Alcyone's tale, the challenge to the reader posed in the Prologue, the man in black's story and the following elaboration in the man in black's dialogue, and the three attempts to court Blanche. Chaucer borrows from Froissart's Paradys d'Amours, Machaut's Dit de la Fonteinne amoureuse and the Jugement de Roy de Behaingne, and Roman de la Rose, altering them to change the reader's response to his telling of the story.
Strohm, Paul A. "Chaucer's Audience(s): Fictional, Implied, Actual." 18 (1983): 137-45.
The pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales show us part of Chaucer's conception of his audience. Given evidence from his works, critics can establish an implied audience having a common body of knowledge. Chaucer's audience was able to recognize biblical allusions, for example. In light of the patronage system under which Chaucer wrote, scholars must admit the existence of an authorial intent to write for a specific audience, although most works were read by people outside of the intended group or person. Present knowledge of Chaucer's audience derives from the clues previously mentioned, but much remains to be examined.