The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Benson, C. David. "Their Telling Difference: Chaucer the Pilgrim and His Two Contrasting Tales." 18 (1983): 61-76.
Chaucer does not give enough information about the pilgrim identified with himself in the Canterbury Tales for critics to claim that the pilgrim is a well-developed character. The tales this pilgrim tells, however, present a dramatic contrast between clever and poor art. The Tale of Sir Thopas is not satiric, but a highly imaginative, carefree tale of nothing. The Tale of Melibee is the stylistic opposite of Thopas. Melibee is highly moral and has little imaginative content either in words or ideas. Chaucer does not merely contrast good with bad art, but different ways to use language. Thus Thopas and Melibee work best when read as a unit.
Bestul, Thomas H. "The Man of Law's Tale and the Rhetorical Foundations of Chaucerian Pathos." 9 (1975): 216-26.
Chaucer's use of rhetorical devices creates an emotional response to Griselda and Constance. In the Man of Law's Tale, as in others, Chaucer explores the idea that emotion is the most convincing part of poetry. Rhetorical tradition encourages the use of detail, which Chaucer uses to his advantage in describing Donegild's mistreatment of Constance in order to increase the pathos of this section. The Man of Law's Tale thus gives evidence for the medieval view that as long as the passions are properly directed, they are not dangerous. The intense pathos of their stories causes the audience to recognize the virtues of Constance and Griselda. Indeed, the pathos of the Man of Law's Tale derives in large measure from Chaucer's use of rhetorical devices to shape the emotions of his readers.
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Truth and Fiction in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 14 (1979): 33-47.
The Nun's Priest constructs his tale around the tension between literature and life. He employs digression to remind his audience that his tale is fiction but that it still has implications for "real" life. By consistently equating Chanticleer and Pertelote with a man and a woman respectively, the Nun's Priest underscores the connection between reality and fiction. When the Nun's Priest refers to Dante's portrait of Paolo and Francesca, he further explicates the relationship between truth and fiction. The fact that Paolo and Francesca begin their affair while reading about Lancelot and Guinevere implies that reading or hearing about human action can alter human behavior. The digressions in the Nun's Priest's Tale remind the audience that, though a fable, the tale contains some truth. The truth in the Nun's Priest's Tale is difficult to determine, however, because there are so many ambiguities in the tale. The Nun's Priest asserts that all stories, no matter how unreal, contain moral truths.
Brown, Emerson, Jr. "Chaucer, the Merchant, and Their Tale: Getting Beyond Old Controversies: Part II." 13 (1979): 247-62.
The "L'Envoy de Chaucer a Bukton" contains statements about women similar to those made by the Merchant, suggesting that Chaucer cannot be so easily separated from the narrator of the Merchant's Tale as some previous scholars have thought.
Christianson, Paul. "Chaucer's Literacy." 11 (1976): 112-27.
As a reader himself, Chaucer requires that his readers notice the effort involved in reading and writing. References to reading in Chaucer's works demonstrate Chaucer's belief that words conceal in order to reveal. The use of occupatio reminds readers of the time they must expend in order to read or to write. Chaucer does, however, show a skeptical attitude towards the idea that language must not replicate the world, but tell the truth about it. For him, experience is not an appropriate test for language. Ultimately, Chaucer forces his reader to see the problem of thinking and knowing.
Condren, Edward I. "Of Deaths and Duchesses and Scholars Coughing in Ink." 10 (1975): 87-95.
The opening lines of the Book of the Duchess express the poet's search for his text as well as his desire for the lady. The poem will fulfill both longings, resulting in sleep, dreams, and poetry. Readers should be cautious as only puns and a title connote Blanche. In fact, the Queen's death may have occasioned most of the poem. The man in black is probably a love poet, suggesting that he represents Chaucer. The king, then, becomes the Earl of Richmond. Gaunt cannot be an inconstant lover because he did not love Constance of Castille, though he kept Katherine Swynford as a mistress. Thus Gaunt could not claim insult because he appears in the poem only briefly.
Condren, Edward I. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A New Hypothesis." 5 (1971): 195-212.
Readers will never know with certainty the context of this poem, though we recognize that Blanche of Lancaster is the subject of this elegy. External evidence suggests that Chaucer wrote it between 1369 and 1387, but internal evidence points to a more specific date. The narrator's "phisicien" and the man in black's lady are one and the same. Also, the knight and the narrator provide two different reactions to Blanche's death. Further, the man riding toward Richmond cannot be the man in black because he is on foot and not associated with the hunt, and the riding man is not given a social rank. The knight has dedicated his service to Love, not to Blanche, so he cannot be her husband. The knight might be identified as Chaucer, particularly since the knight is a budding poet, and poets in Chaucer's other works often turn out to be Chaucer himself. In their two responses to death, the knight and the narrator seem to be two different figurations of the same person. The way in which the work progresses, then, depends on the process of Chaucer's patronage after the death of Blanche under Edward III, John of Gaunt, and Henry IV.
David, Alfred. "Chaucer's Good Counsel to Scogan." 3 (1969): 265-74.
The Envoy to Scogan is much more than a begging poem; like some of Edward Deschamp's poetry, Scogan is a light poem offering advice. The poem suggests that it is occasioned by a blasphemous oath regarding a lady, and Scogan becomes more intelligible if read as if written to a young poet to tell him that in this life, all is transitory. Humor rises from the similarities between Scogan and Chaucer, and the similarities drive home the point. In Scogan, Chaucer offers advice based on experience in love, but he also suggests that poetry itself is not eternal.
Delany, Sheila. "'Phantom' and the House of Fame." 2 (1967): 67-74.
The narrator's plea to be protected from fantome points to his vulnerability to several kinds of error, particularly because of the phantom's separation from reality. Poets are especially susceptible to phantoms and singularly responsible not to impose them on an audience. Finally, the reader realizes that there is no perfect standard by which to distinguish truth from fiction.
Dubs, Kathleen E., and Stoddard Malarkey. "The Frame of Chaucer's Parlement." 13 (1978): 16-24.
The opening stanza of the Parliament of Fowls expresses a poet's concern with shaping his raw materials into poetry. The writer-narrator of the Parliament is more detached than the narrator of the Book of the Duchess; the narrator of the Parliament achieves detachment through the frame of book, then dream. The dismissal of Somnium Scipionis in the opening stanzas of the Parliament can be read as part of Chaucer's concern with writing, and understanding the Parliament as a poem about writing illuminates the poem's circular structure.
Dyck, E. F. "Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Troilus and Criseyde." 20 (1986): 169-82.
The Middle Ages saw poetry as persuasive and writers looked toward earlier models to support their ideas. Geoffrey de Vinsauf's Poetria nova instructed writers on style. Augustine's De doctrina christiana suggested that poetry should persuade its audience to a greater awareness of Christian truths. Both these writers derive their ideas from the Aristotelian tradition in which a writer uses three modes to persuade, ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (reason). The narrator of Troilus and Criseyde opens by appealing to ethos in order to impress readers that he is a poet. Once he undermines his status as a poet by consistently referring to Lollius instead of Boccaccio, he becomes more human, but loses ethos in his writing. At the end of the poem, he returns to ethos. Chaucer adds the appeal to pathos to what he found in Boccaccio, and although that pathos does not come directly from the narrator, it affects the audience nonetheless. The narrator's appeal to logos seems to fail, but if readers examine the poem in terms of Chaucer's appeal to logos, it is more successful.
Ebin, Lois. "Chaucer, Lydgate, and the 'Myrie tale.'" 13 (1979): 316-35.
Chaucer and the Host generate different definitions of the qualities of a good tale, and their definitions differ from Lydgate's perception. The Host operates under the definition that good stories compel the audience's attention and entertain. Chaucer seems, however, to operate under a different definition, one that examines the skill of the story-teller. This concern appears most clearly in the Reeve's Tale and the Man of Law's Tale. Chaucer further develops his concern with writing by connecting rhetorical skill to the intent of the story-teller as in the Merchant's, Squire's, Franklin's, and Pardoner's Tales. The Host's response to Melibee raises the question of multiple possible meanings. The Parson's Tale suggests an additional element of a good tale--audience benefit or edification. In Siege of Thebes, Lydgate suggests that a good tale both entertains and edifies. Lydgate moves away from his sources in order to emphasize virtues that the ruling class would imitate and to propound the power of words over the power of the sword.
Eisner, Sigmund. "Chaucer as Technical Writer." 19 (1985): 179-201.
Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe shows his ability to communicate technical information to readers at all levels of knowledge, especially when compared to his contemporaries who wrote for those already possessing a basic knowledge of the subject. When translating, Chaucer adds specific details to the original work as he did when he translated the Livre de Melibee et de Prudence. Such details allow Chaucer to teach by example and to help his readers to remember the information.
Fehrenbacher, Richard W. "'A yeerd enclosed al aboute': Literature and History in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 29 (1994): 134-48.
The reference to Jack Straw suggests the tenuousness of the separation between literature and history. A conversation between the literary and the historical can be traced throughout the poem, in that from the General Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale Chaucer engages issues of social conflict. From the Wife of Bath's Prologue to the Pardoner's Tale he considers the historical position of the pilgrims and the social position and power each thereby embodies. In the last section he presents Christianity as the shaping force of society. Analysis of the Nun's Priest's Tale reveals a movement away from history and then shows how writing cannot be separated from history, ultimately denying the ahistoricity of literature.
Fish, Varda. "The Origin and Original Object of Troilus and Criseyde." 18 (1984): 304-15.
Because Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is not a personal experience for the narrator in the way that Boccaccio's Filostrato is, Chaucer's story is more about writing poetry than Boccaccio's story which is more about love. The use of Boethian imagery emphasizes the ironical nature of the narrator's position. Chaucer suggests that poetry has all the seductive power of Boccaccio's lady. In the end, Chaucer's narrator turns away from the philosophy of love and of poetry expressed by Boccaccio.
Hanrahan, Michael. "Seduction and Betrayal: Treason in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women." 30 (1996): 229-40.
In the prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer addresses the issue of treason or betrayal in love. His treatment, however, differs from the standard treatment of this topic since it is informed by the charges of the Lords Appelant that Richard was being mislead by his treasonous council. Chaucer demonstrates a similar concern in the Nun's Priest's Tale. In the Legend of Good Women Alceste accuses the narrator of treason not by heretical deeds, but by writings. The definition of treason Alceste ultimately presents "opposes any sectarian determination of the crime" (239).
Hardman, Phillipa. "The Book of the Duchess as a Memorial Monument." 28 (1994): 205-15.
Chaucer constructed the Book of the Duchess on the model of the elaborate tombs popular among the aristocracy in the Middle Ages. In poetry Chaucer could create an idealized image of Blanche of Lancaster, much the way a sculptor would make such an image for a tomb. The images of Seys and Alcyone that Chaucer creates also represent the "sorrow of death" (213).
Harrington, Norman T. "Experience, Art, and the Framing of the Canterbury Tales." 10 (1975): 187-200.
To determine the meaning of the Canterbury Tales, readers must examine the framing device. Chaucer believed that art and experience complement each other in the search for truth. Thus, he uses the links between the tales to contrast the art of the tales with the experience of the pilgrimage. Chaucer also contrasts tale styles to comment on class and social behaviors.
Herzog, Michael B. "The Book of the Duchess: The Vision of the Artist as a Young Dreamer." 22 (1988): 269-81.
The Book of the Duchess is constructed on the tension between tradition and creativity that appears in the most basic aspects of the poem, including "the complex frame structure," "the ambivalent dreamer/ narrator," "the relationship between storytelling and dreams, and between experiential and book learning," and "the implications of these relationships for living and dying" (280). Chaucer uses the dream as a metaphor for poetry. As in Chaucer's other works, the narrator is the center of artistic questions. He has experienced suffering, and he finds the story to be a sleep aid. But the story discusses ways to deal with grief, and the narrator does not have to understand that to make the story effective for the reader. The active characters in Book of the Duchess use stories to untangle difficulties, since the poetry brings the relationship back to a realistic level.
Jordan, Robert M. "Lost in the Funhouse of Fame: Chaucer and Postmodernism." 18 (1983): 100-15.
Like Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Barth, and others after him, Chaucer is preoccupied with writing and subjectivity in House of Fame. In this work, Chaucer demonstrates an awareness of the limits of writing and of fiction, an awareness that problematize poetry and poetic language. He also foregrounds his position as author by using various techniques.
Jordan, Robert M. "The Compositional Structure of the Book of the Duchess." 9 (1974): 99-117.
Geoffrey of Vinsauf's principles of "macro-rhetoric" shape the narrative structure of the Book of the Duchess (101). Examination of the structure of the Book of the Duchess indicates division into eulogy and consolation. Within this larger structure, smaller clear sections follow Vinsauf's "poetic-house" structure (103) and display amplificatio. The man in black, a portrait of John of Gaunt, instructs readers and the narrator in courtly virtue. The narrator's response, however, is personal, though in other places the narrator functions as a transitional device. We cannot read the narrator as a unified consciousness because he moves between these two roles. Once the dreamer shows his personal concern, the man in black expands his complaint d'amour. The dreamer's response seems inappropriate because readers share gentility with the man in black which the narrator does not. The irregularities of the text result from the fact that Chaucer did not write the Book of the Duchess organically, and this inorganic approach accommodates Seys and Alcyone's story.
Kruger, Steven F. "Imagination and the Complex Movement of Chaucer's House of Fame." 28 (1993): 117-34.
Though the movement patterns in the House of Fame are complex, they unite the poem. The House of Fame is primarily a self-reflexive poem, drawing readers' attention to fundamental issues of art. Poetry is essentially concerned with fame and communication. As in other dream visions, however, there is no guarantee of discovery, and when moments of epiphany come upon the dreamer, they are inherently ambiguous. Both the House of Fame and of the House Tidings have equivocal relationships to Truth. Truth may be heeded or ignored.
McGregor, James H. "The Iconography of Chaucer in Hoccleve's De Regimine Principum and in the Troilus Frontispiece." 11 (1977): 338-50.
The picture of Chaucer in Hoccleve was created after his death and displays specific ideas of Chaucer's purpose for writing. The frontispiece for Troilus and Criseyde may have been painted during Chaucer's life, but there is no way to decide conclusively. Hoccleve presents Chaucer as a poet who has arrived at the end of poetry: he is also a philosopher. Chaucer is also a good counselor, so Hoccleve presents an abridged Melibee, but he distorts the sense so that Chaucer becomes a counselor to princes. The portrait of Chaucer Hoccleve presents, then, is designed to inspire the prince. Chaucer is also presented as the instructor to the prince in the frontispiece to Troilus and Criseyde. Both portraits present Chaucer in a nationalistic sense, suggesting that his most important role is that of presenting philosophy to the ruler, thereby encouraging peace.
Miller, Jacqueline T. "The Writing on the Wall: Authority and Authorship in Chaucer's House of Fame." 17 (1982): 95-115.
Inherent in the genre of dream vision is the problem of authority: there is no one who can corroborate the narrator's dream. The narrator of the House of Fame carefully establishes his separation from the dream vision tradition by placing the dream in December and appealing to himself as an authority figure. When telling the story of Dido and Aneas off the walls of the Temple of Venus, the narrator refers to himself as a kind of author, determining the parts of the story he will include based on his purpose. When he leaves the temple, however, the world outside is too much for his voice, and the voice is silenced. Silence gives authority to the true creator.
Polzella, Marion L. "'The craft so long to lerne': Poet and Lover in Chaucer's 'Envoy to Scogan' and Parliament of Fowls." 10 (1976): 279-86.
Chaucer carefully constructs an analogy between poet and lover. When the poet calls on Venus, he needs aid to write, not to love. The narrator's inexperience in love makes the parallels between love and poetry stronger, particularly in the Parliament of Fowls. Finally, the poet rejects neither love nor poetry, though he does express doubts regarding their longevity.
Ross, Diane M. "The Play of Genres in the Book of the Duchess." 19 (1984): 1-13.
The Book of the Duchess contains three different genres, lyric, allegory, and proces, a narrative that proceeds step by step. Not only does this variety allow Chaucer to demonstrate writing by example, but it also allows him to contrast the story-telling capacity of each one. The poem becomes both a consolation for the man in black and Blanche's final resting place. The Book of the Duchess encompasses other lyrics which force the reader to examine carefully the meanings and places of these lyrics in the work to determine the allegory behind them. Chaucer asserts the primacy of narrative in this work.
Shaw, Judith Davis. "Lust and Lore in Gower and Chaucer." 19 (1984): 110-22.
Chaucer and Gower treat lore differently. Both believe that lore is the wisdom of the past, but Chaucer doubts that lore can be used effectively in modern times. Gower shows no doubt that lore has something to say to his era. Chaucer's characters construe authority (lore) to suit their own ends; Gower's characters display an honest desire to learn. Chaucer and Gower also treat lust differently. Few of the Canterbury Tales combine meaning and delight. Gower avoids complex rhetorical figures, however, and focuses on his text, succeeding in mingling teaching and delight.
Stevens, Martin. "The Winds of Fortune in the Troilus." 13 (1979): 285-307.
In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer uses the image of the boat in the sea of life driven by a force such as Fortune uncontrolled by man . Troilus uses this image to describe his state. Ultimately, he ceases to believe that Fortune steers his boat and focuses on Criseyde instead. The attention to an earthly guide leads to his destruction. All of the characters recognize the power of supernatural forces, but they fail to recognize what those forces are doing in their world. The narrator is most subject to Fortune, recognizing his powerlessness; he presents authority, but not experience. Pandarus stands in direct opposition to the narrator because he acts on his own, disregarding the will of the gods. Pandarus is a poet-figure because he "makes" the love between Troilus and Criseyde with his words (247), but while Pandarus freely uses his imagination, the narrator merely reports. The conflict between the two points of view reflects Chaucer's struggle to define the role of the artist. In the sea-imagery, Troilus's direction, first inward towards consummating his love and then outward to death, becomes important. Chaucer uses the image of the boat driven across the sea of life to depict Boethius's idea that recognizing God's Providence requires insight.
Taylor, Paul Beekman. "Chaucer's Eye of the Lynx and the Limits of Vision." 28 (1993): 67-77.
Chaucer adds the image of the lynx's eye to his translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. Jean de Meun also uses the traditional qualities of Lynceus's eyes. Alanus de Insulis's Anticlaudianus and Adam de la Bassée's gloss, as well as the works of Eustache Deschamps, also use this image for sharp sight. Isidore of Seville and John Trevisa's translation of Proprietatibus associate the lynx with the ruby, giving the stone extraordinary healing qualities. Chaucer questions the insight associated with the lynx's eye in the Monk's Tale. Ultimately it becomes a symbol "of the limits of the artist's ability to see and express the perfection of form beneath the ugly matter of things" (75).
Zimbardo, Rose A. "Creator and Created: The Generic Perspective of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde." 11 (1977): 283-98.
Troilus and Criseyde expresses Chaucer's concern with the inability of the artist to imitate the unknowable larger cosmos in which the author participates. When humans create ordered worlds, they imitate God, but the human creations are subject to mutability and so will collapse. The poet-narrator is a Pandarus-like figure, detached from experience in order to create a different reality. The epilogue forces readers to recognize that the created will always be more limited than the creator. The tragedy is that humans can never escape from mutability. Chaucer's attempt to see things from God's point of view results in only a partial vision. Inconstant Criseyde is associated with Nature's changes. Pandarus realizes that all the things Troilus thought were immutable do change and that those changes are integral parts of being human. Chaucer uses Troilus to depict the changes occasioned throughout life. The Muses Chaucer introduces at the beginning of some books are also indicative of the movement within the books and within Troilus's romance with Criseyde.