The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Bergan, Brooke. "Surface and Secret in the Knight's Tale." 26 (1991): 1-16.
Language constantly fluctuates between transparency and opacity, and standard forms are always shifting. The Knight's Tale can be read with greater understanding when readers recognize the "transitional moment" in which "the shock of the new makes us conscious of language as surface" (3). Comparison to Boccaccio's Book of Theseus shows Chaucer's rhetorical changes and choices. Ironic subtext lies under every intense emotional moment. The narrator maintains the suddeness that ceremony should ritualize out of existence. The Knight's fascination with order leads him to partition off sections of his tale, as he does in the three temples, the three prayers, and the three signs. The Knight is, however, intent on subverting the romance genre, so the order he creates is always undercut. The "interpenetration" of romance and epic that the Knight creates mirrors Chaucer's interpenetration of oral and written tradition in the Canterbury Tales (14).
Dahlberg, Charles. "The Narrator's Frame for Troilus." 15 (1980): 85-100.
Reading with an eye for dissimilarity may illuminate the first sentence of Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer alters the classical form of the opening sentence to reflect more clearly the minstrel tradition. The invocation to the Muse shows the principle of contrast as does the end, which carefully alternates between Chaucer's and Boccaccio's ideas. The style follows an equally contrasting pattern, alternating between high and low styles.
Dias-Ferreira, Julia. "Another Portuguese Analogue of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale." 11 (1977): 258-60.
The oral circulation of stories like the Pardoner's Tale can be confirmed by this additional Portuguese example, provided in full. Its date and its relationship to Chaucer's tale are uncertain.
Jabbour, Alan. "Memorial Transmission in Old English Poetry." 3 (1969): 174-90.
Two primary theories have been proposed for the creation of Old English poetry, a strictly oral theory and a transitional theory. Comparing British works of the Anglo-Saxon period with Southslavic works in the oral tradition produces a third possibility. In the oral tradition, poets memorize the plan of the story, orally improvising the words and phrases in rendition. Following the memorized plan allows for two separate possibilities: the poet can rely primarily on memory for most things or the poet can rely on improvisation for most of the details. Scholars cannot posit a "transitional" stage between oral and written works in which the written text has the formulas of the oral tradition because such a text in written form does not have the necessary element of improvisation. However, the memorial tradition shares with written text the attempt to maintain a given work in both story line and detail. Thus a memorial tradition, like that of British poetry, can easily relate to a written tradition. There may be a transitional text between written and memorial transmission in that the memorial transmission may appropriate a written text, but the text may not yet have experienced all the changes which come with full incorporation into the memorial tradition. Extended examination of Old English texts, for example Soul and Body, demonstrates the memorial transmission of texts and suggests a profitable relationship between written and oral texts.
Moorman, Charles. "The English Alliterative Revival and the Literature of Defeat." 16 (1981): 85-100.
Poems within the alliterative revival may be grouped by the geographical location of their writers. Writers from different areas of origin use different techniques. For example, the Parliament of the Three Ages and Winner and Waster use natural description and a non-doctrinal tone, elements found in Southern poetry. Western and North Midland poetry of this period (1350-1400) employs concrete physical detail and avoids Christian and political emphasis. Eastern poems focus on immediate socio-political goals, and they resemble Chaucer's and Gower's works. The poets of the alliterative revival rely on "an inherited oral and poetic tradition" (89), the revival of which grew out of opposition to the royal court. The more Norman-Western poets deal "with the conflicting passions and basic instincts of men" (90). The Western poems show the elements of Anglo-Saxon poetry beneath the Christianized exterior.
Scheps, Walter. "Middle English Poetic Usage and Blind Harry's Wallace." 4 (1970): 291-302.
Oral poetry differs from written work in that a formulaic phrase is the smallest "meaningful unit" in oral works, but in written work it is the word (292). A formulaic phrase may be altered only as long as its meter and meaning remain constant. Some phrases can be changed while others cannot. Written works may be tested for oral origins. Often, however, poets who write use oral formulas. Instead of suggesting that these poets composed orally and then wrote down their work, readers may look for the artistic end these formulas serve. Examination of Blind Harry's use of the common "fire-flint" alliteration illustrates this point. He uses the oral formula in the internal rhyme common to ballads, but in a way an oral poet could not. Where Harry and other poets borrow oral formulas out of slackness, they demonstrate one of the greatest differences between oral and written poetry. Oral poetry depends on formulaic expressions for survival; written work depends on a rejection of stock phrases and formulas (originality) for survival. Thus, written work like Chaucer's has little influence on oral poetry. Oral poetry may also be set to music with favorable results in a way written work may not. Thus, we cannot criticize primarily oral work for repetitiveness, poor rhythm, and loose structure whereas we may criticize written work for these same qualities.