The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Alford, John A. "The Wife of Bath Versus the Clerk of Oxford: What Their Rivalry Means." 21 (1986): 108-32.
Chaucer sets up the Wife of Bath and the Clerk as opposites. They represent rhetoric and philosophy respectively, and seen as personifications of these concepts, their rivalry makes sense. The debate between philosophy and rhetoric rests on a moral issue: philosophy seeks truth where rhetoric does not. A number of classical and medieval writers emphasized the conflict between rhetoric and philosophy. Among them are Plato (Gorgias), Cicero (De oratore), Lucan (The Double Indictment), Augustine (De doctrina christiana), Martianus Capella (The Marriage of Philology and Mercury), John of Salisbury (Metalogicon), and Petrarch (De vita solitaria). Lucan and Capella personify the two points of view, and Capella's creations have a number of qualities paralleled in Chaucer's descriptions of the Clerk and the Wife of Bath, whose descriptions evoke the traditional associations with philosophy and rhetoric. Chaucer adds the detail that the Wife is deaf, perhaps as an additional commentary on the nature of rhetoricians. Each tale exhibits the characteristics of the personified discipline telling the story. The Wife of Bath's Tale focuses on experience and uses a number of rhetorical devices, particularly in the argument. The Clerk's Tale displays a number of characteristics associated with logic and philosophy. The jabs that the Wife and the Clerk take at one another show the Clerk to be superior, even at rhetoric, thus reasserting the traditional view that rhetoric is subservient to philosophy both in "discourse and life" (130).
Collette, Carolyn P. "A Closer Look at Seinte Cecile's Special Vision." 10 (1976): 337-49.
Chaucer constructs the Second Nun's Tale on the polarity of sight and blindness, merely seeing as opposed to understanding. This dichotomy involves "wisdom and the relation of the body to the spirit" (338). Timaeus, De doctrina christiana, and Psychomachia also examine this theme, and study of these three works elucidates the Second Nun's Tale. The Prologue establishes the limits of the flesh but also indicates its victories. The action of the tale shows how men should subdue their fleshly desires, seek spiritual vision, and ultimately gain wisdom.
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.