The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Braswell-Means, Laurel. "A New Look at an Old Patient: Chaucer's Summoner and Medieval Physiognomia." 25 (1991): 266-75.
Using medieval medical theory based on Aristotle, Galen, and Hippocrates, and medieval physiognomy, Chaucer constructs the Summoner's portrait so as to describe the Summoner's medical conditions. The Summoner is clearly unnaturally hot as both his description and his cures indicate. The combination of these two suggests that the Summoner is choleric, according to Galen and Avicenna. Chaucer sees the Summoner and the Pardoner as variations of the same humor character. The Summoner's disease is also associated with sexuality, and astrological details associate him with Mars. This combination suggests that the Summoner would experience his most difficult time of year in the spring. The Summoner's disease is incurable, except by the spiritual healing he would experience at the shrine of Thomas a Becket.
Collette, Carolyn. "Seeing and Believing in the Franklin's Tale." 26 (1992): 395-410.
Readers can examine the Franklin's Tale in terms of medieval theories of sight, vision, and will. Chaucer's focus on sight and the illusions of appearance is an original addtion to the source material in the Filostrato, and Historia regnum Britanniae. Dorigen's complaint revolves around her perception of the rocks. Her agreement with Aurelius uses the different perceptions among people and also engages the appearance and reality debate, as does the episode with the Clerk of Orleans. For those living in the Middle Ages, "sight was the chief of the physical senses" (401). By Chaucer's time, people valued mystical insight in a neo-Platonic way. The neo-Platonic tradition conflicted with Aristotelian views in which sight corresponded to reality, and created new opinions regarding how sight and experience became knowledge. In the fourteenth century people became fascinated by optical science and how the ability to see physically interacts with mental acuity of perception. The ability to see was also related to the will and a person's ability to perceive truth, as Augustine shows in De trinitate. Dorigen's obsession with the sight of the rocks creates a situation in which the marriage vow is questioned, thereby engaging this debate. Chaucer also examines sight and perception in the Second Nun's Tale and the Canon's Yeoman's Tale.
Peck, Russell A. "Love, Politics, and Plot in the Parlement of Foules." 24 (1990): 290-305.
The Parliament of Fowls can be interpreted three different ways in light of political situations during Chaucer's lifetime. Identifying specific people with specific characters in the poem is the least fruitful method of approaching the poem. Readers may also interpret the poem In light of political philosophy, connecting the dream-vision material to neo-Aristotelian and Ciceronian materials on the ideal political body. Scrutiny of Chaucer's source, the Roman de la Rose, reveals another possible way to read the Parliament of Fowls . The kind of love presented in the Roman de la Rose is political in that it creates change, but is also changed itself. Chaucer maintains this kind of love in the Parliament of Fowls, and the conflict between love and politics drives the plot. The Parliament of Fowls is also about knowledge, reading, and movement from "narcissism to politics" (298). In the desire for enclosure and in the parliament itself, readers recognize the assertion of willful desire and see how desire can become political catastrophe.