The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Jensen, Emily. "Male Competition as a Unifying Motif in Fragment A of the Canterbury Tales." 24 (1990): 320-28.
The tales in Group I descend in genre and character from courtly romance to fabliau, from knights to peasants. In Group I, this descent occurs in terms of male competion, both in the tales and between the pilgrims. The competition centers on a woman who becomes increasingly more active and more objectified as the tales progress. Examination of the Knight's, Miller's, Reeve's, and Cook's Tales clearly demonstrates this downward movement. The links between these tales are focused on "quiting," also a form of competition. The pun on "queynte" and the rhymes formed with "wyf" as the tales continue emphasize the progressive objectification of women.
Justman, Stewart. "Literal and Symbolic in the Canterbury Tales." 14 (1980): 199-214.
Medievalists accepted analogies as reality. The Wife of Bath and characters in the Shipman's Tale twist this traditional relationship, thereby undermining traditional ways of understanding. Turning a work such as the Song of Songs that is outside of social boundaries into symbol returns it to the social order. But re-literalizing such a text threatens authority. Chaucer employs the theme of counterfeiting or literalizing symbols in the Merchant's Tale. The Miller's, Pardoner's, and Nun's Priest's Tales also work to subvert authority. The "quitings" between characters are part of a pattern of sublimation. The action between the pilgrims is both physical and symbolic, however, so it does not completely destroy social order. Puns are part of Chaucer's questioning of authority in language.
Morey, James H. "The 'Cultour' in the Miller's Tale: Alison as Iseult." 29 (1995): 373-81.
Absolon's use of a coulter to requite Alisoun in the Miller's Tale alludes to the medieval custom of trial by ordeal particularly in cases of suspected adultery. That Alisoun escapes unharmed reminds readers of the story of Tristan and Iseult, particularly the moment when Iseult is tested for adultery by carrying hot iron. That Nicholas is burned suggests that he is guilty of betraying John. Chaucer probably knew the story from Sir Tristrem, extant in a late thirteenth-century manuscript. Alison's avoiding of the hot coulter shows us just how clever she is.
Oerlemans, Onno. "The Seriousness of the Nun's Priest's Tale." 26 (1992): 317-28.
The irony of the Nun's Priest's Tale works against both readers who attempt to find morality and the narrator who attempts to give the tale meaning. The success of the tale is determined more by the fact that the Nun's Priest must "quite" the Monk and demonstrate that Fortune does not control everything than by anything he says in particular. He chooses the beast fable because it traditionally has the capacity to delight and to instruct. In the course of the tale, the Priest satirizes those who believe that knowledge of the fallen world will lead closer to truth. The references to Adam and to Christ do not exemplify metanarrative, but point to the narrator's "uncertainty as to where his tale has taken him, and an attempt to combine both the simple intentions and rewards of the beast fable with a more sophisticated moral" (325). The tale functions as a means to examine higher truths in a fallen world.
Ramazani, Jahan. "Chaucer's Monk: The Poetics of Abbreviation, Aggression, and Tragedy." 27 (1993): 260-76.
The Monk tells his tales in such a way to circumscribe himself and his tales, which are constructed in circles. He also uses the same phonemic and rhetorical devices throughout each story. The way in which Chaucer presents the Monk leads readers to question the relationship between text and context. Chaucer also connects the Monk's Tale to anal retentive psychological behavior in that the Monk has a violent temper, a subtext of his tragedies. The connection between narrative and violence is reinforced by the Monk's connection to the monk in the Shipman's Tale. Chaucer does not criticize de casibus tragedy, but he does criticize the formulaic view the Monk presents of it.
Schuman, Samuel. "The Link Mechanism in the Canterbury Tales." 20 (1986): 200-06.
Chaucer structures the Canterbury Tales in such a way that the portraits are linked to one another by common themes or images. That the tales are linked in much the same way contributes to the reader's sense that the Miller's Tale is a lower class version of the Knight's Tale, and the Reeve's Tale is a ugly version of the Miller's Tale. This structure is quite similar to the Great Chain of Being.
Tkacz, Catherine Brown. "Chaucer's Beard-Making." 18 (1983): 127-36.
In the Reeve's Tale Chaucer puns on the name of St. Cuthberd, making him St. Cutberd (Deceiver). Chaucer employs the word "berd" elsewhere, giving it sexual overtones. When the Reeve uses "reve," he connects Symkyn to himself and not to the Miller whom the Reeve wanted to requite for his tale.