The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Economou, George. "The Character Genius in Alan de Lille, Jean de Meun, and John Gower." 4 (1970): 203-10.
To appreciate fully the Genius character in medieval literature, readers must understand the tradition behind it. In the work of Alanus de Insulis, Genius serves Nature, excommunicating those who have disobeyed her laws. Nature says that Genius is a mirror image of herself, but the only common features are those relating to Nature's role as procreatrix. Thus when Genius condemns, he functions as part of Nature. Jean de Meun makes Genius a confessor in addition to his role as priest and spokesman. In Jean, the Christian view of love is assigned to Raison instead of Genius and Nature who represent the generative instinct without regard for the convention of marriage. Jean thus separates rationality and sexuality, causing Nature to battle Death at a more organic level. In Roman de la Rose, Venus and her son stand for lust, and thus they oppose Nature and Genius. Gower casts the relationship betwen Nature and Venus in the same way as de Lille did. So, in Confessio amantis, Gower introduces Genius as Venus's clerk, not as Nature's because that is the way Jean treated them.
Haines, R. Michael. "Fortune, Nature, and Grace in Fragment C." 10 (1976): 220-35.
When responding to the Pardoner's Tale, the Host does not mention the gifts of Grace, because Grace brings life, but Fortune and Nature bring death. His comments do, however, suggest a unifying theme for the Canterbury Tales. In the Physician's Tale, Virginia exemplifies the gifts of both Grace and Nature. Fortune uses Apius; Grace (mis)uses Virginius who allows Virginia to remain a virgin without forcing her to commit suicide, thus helping her to avoid a mortal sin. The Physician's Tale makes the point "that one must be prepared to die by living in Grace, free from sin" (226). The Pardoner's Tale shows the subversion of Fortune's, Nature's, and Grace's gifts. The Pardoner's three sins, gluttony, gambling, and swearing, are ultimately profanations of Nature, Fortune, and Grace respectively. The three revelers also pervert these gifts. Chaucer treats these gifts in the Man of Law's Tale, the Second Nun's Tale, the Prioress's Tale, and the Monk's Tale as well.
Hewitt, Kathleen. "'Ther it was first': Dream Poetics in the Parliament of Fowls." 24 (1989): 20-28.
The Parliament of Fowls rearranges the material of Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, but still follows the pattern of descent from unity to disunity also found in the Somnium. In the process of presenting the dream, Chaucer borrows from Dante and from Boccaccio's Teseida. The parliament itself derives from Alanus de Insulis's De planctu naturae. In it, the rip in Nature's gown signifies humankind's separation from Nature. The labor of the birds that Chaucer highlights, however, suggests a movement towards redemption.
Knapp, Peggy A. "The Nature of Nature: Criseyde's 'Slydyng corage.'" 13 (1978): 133-40.
Chaucer goes to great lengths to associate Criseyde with Nature. Pandarus, then, becomes Nature's priest. Troilus refers to Nature/Criseyde as paradise and worships her. Diomede exploits her for his personal gain. Each lover demonstrates a different response to Nature.
Leicester, H. Marshall, Jr. "The Harmony of Chaucer's Parlement: A Dissonant Voice." 9 (1974): 15-34.
The richness of tradition and the depth of Chaucer's own perceptions prevents the unification of the Parliament of Fowls. Chaucer treats his dream as a series of voices, not of places, and disjoins the voices from each other though they are associated with traditional topoi. The material, however, is too abstract to remain so separated from ordinary experience. Chaucer uses his material to display learning for learning's sake, but this choice separates the erudite material from the more narrative material. The contest between radical ordering and subjective use of traditional material prevents the poem from being unified until the end of Part I. Ultimately, Chaucer cannot separate his material from himself. The final section of the poem is more unified in part because the poet relinquishes his attempt to deal with big questions about love. This progression as well as the action in the last section of the poem itself point to Chaucer's focus on individuals as disruptive forces. Chaucer also examines how types and styles can or cannot communicate; as he represents it, attempting to remain fixed in a type or style will only result in social collapse. Nature seems to be the force channeling individuals into socially accepted behaviors, but there is an underlying suggestion that Nature is chaotic. The final roundel reestablishes natural order and absorbs the individual problems. Finally, the "solution" suggests that society and culture are maintained at the expense of individuals (32).
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part I)." 25 (1990): 1-16.
The Parliament of Fowls distinctly deals with love and courtship. The poem is a dream vision, closely associated with the debate or demande d'amour. Chaucer alters the debate so that the choice is between different degrees, not kinds, thereby problematizing the activity of choosing by feeling and will, not by reason. Chaucer draws attention to the conflict between Nature's power and the will of creatures, showing that individuals do not always guide their behavior by reason. The debate between free will and determinism is the crux of the poem. Such examination reveals Chaucer's consideration of the classical and medieval philsopical discussions of choice and will. The use of Cicero signals to the reader that Chaucer is attempting to deal with love at a more elevated level. Medieval philsophy moved more to voluntarism, giving the will greater freedom. Chaucer also presents intellectualism as "a form of determinism" (9). In this description of determinism, Chaucer also engages Dante, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Buridan.
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part II)." 25 (1990): 85-95.
Chaucer examines free will from three different angles in the Parliament of Fowls. The emphasis of the traditional demande d'amour is not the choice of the formel, but who she chooses. By showing a narrator who hesitates before the gates of love, Chaucer personifies the debate between free will and determinism. Chaucer also refers to Cicero, a philosopher interested in comprehending the relationship between free will and divine foreknowledge. In the fourteenth century the proponents of voluntarism were Duns Scotus and Ockham. Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine opposed them by diminishing man's free will in order to emphasize God's power and knowledge. Duns Scotus separates the intellect and the will since the intellect focuses on an object that determines its own motion. The will is, however, free to determine itself. In the garden of the Parliament of Fowls, readers see the failure of will. The parliament shows, in contrast, the activity of the will. Chaucer also presents the weakness of Nature and Reason in that both are without will. Ultimately, the formel eagle shows how self-motivated beings behave.
McCall, John P. "The Harmony of Chaucer's Parliament." 5 (1970): 22-31.
To best understand the Parliament of Fowls, readers must resist reducing it to a monophonic work and see in it the harmony of many different voices. Nature's final decision with regard to the marital state of the formel eagle takes the best of the opinions of the different bird groups and maintains a perfect balance between Nature and Reason. Chaucer presents readers with a harmonious picture of the garden though the trees each have different, and sometimes contradictory, purposes. Both the garden and the parliament tell readers about the "duality of life and . . . all earthly creation" (27).
Oruch, Jack B. "Nature's Limitations and the Demande d'Amour of Chaucer's Parlement." 18 (1983): 23-37.
The Parliament of Fowls is an innovative treatment of the demande d'amour as shown by comparison with traditional elements of that genre. The choice presented to the formel eagle, the position of the judge and the birds who argue for each eagle, and the inconclusive end to which Nature assents all differ substantially from the traditional form. The role of Nature in Parliament of Fowls can be profitably compared to more traditional treatments in Alanus de Insulis's Anticlaudianus, Dante's Tesoretto, Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose, and Guillaume de Deguilleville's Pèlerinage de la Vie Humaine. Chaucer designed Parliament of Fowls to cause the reader to examine larger questions, for example the narrator's interpretation of Somnium Scipionis.
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.
Petroff, Elizabeth. "Landscape in Pearl: The Transformation of Nature." 16 (1981): 181-93.
Nature in Pearl embodies the inner emotional and mental life of people. In the first garden the poet departs from traditional nature imagery by setting Pearl in August, by filling the garden with plants useful for healing, by removing order from the garden, and by showing no direct water source. Images of lush paradise are here connected to harvest and death. The second garden has a more timeless beauty compared to the first, is primarily white in color, and has transforming powers. The narrator's vision ends as he mistakes the spiritual and the physical, and he returns to the earthly garden to work it in order eventually to gain heaven.
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.