The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Longsworth, Robert M. "Privileged Knowledge: St. Cecilia and the Alchemist in the Canterbury Tales." 27 (1992): 87-96.
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale and the Second Nun's Tale both treat transformation. In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale alchemy is presented as fraud with only monetary consequences for the dupe. The Canon's Yeoman is careful to show the abuse of fundamental principles. In the Second Nun's Tale transformation has mortal consequences for believers, and as a result deals with a double epistemology. Believers can see what non-believers cannot. The narrator is responsible for the presentation of these two kinds of knowledge. The narrator of the Second Nun's Tale merely claims that he is reporting from a source, probably Jacobus de Voragine, whereas the narrator of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale is making a confession.
Root, Jerry. "'Space to speak': The Wife of Bath and the Discourse of Confession." 28 (1994): 252-74.
Examination of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in light of the theories of Michel Foucault suggests that medieval confessional practice defined a new space for private speech. In the Canterbury Tales, the Parson's Tale and Chaucer's Retraction make the confessional mode most apparent. All of the pilgrims travel in a space defined by Church practice as acceptable. Even the struggle between the Friar and the Summoner takes place within that established boundary. In fact, their rivalry is built on the confessional mode. The Wife of Bath's claim for experience merely places her in the confessional mode, requiring a telling of personal experience. Her emphasis on her body reveals a desire to assert the "scandal of the domination of the female body by traditional strategies of interpretation" (257). The Wife's claims for her body and the right to marry declare a space in which she can speak and a refusal to submit to male authorities like Jerome. Her grumbling, though merely "noise" to the male establishment, creates "a space in which she can speak rather than being spoken" (262). By retelling what her husbands have done, she controls their speech and reveals their most hidden secrets. Though apparently confessional, the Wife of Bath's Prologue is a confession of her husband's private experience, not her own.
Roper, Gregory. "Pearl, Penitence, and the Recovery of the Self." 28 (1993): 164-86.
The dreamer in Pearl begins speaking like a penitent confessing to a parish priest, and he must face the weak person he has been. The Pearl-Maiden, like the priest, presents the dreamer with representations of himself that the dreamer recognizes as accurate portraits. He then judges himself in need of change. The Pearl-Maiden then gives the dreamer a different self so that he may reconstruct himself by giving himself wholly to God. Having reconstructed himself, he will be considered one of the elect after death.