The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Dean, James. "Chaucer's Repentance: A Likely Story." 24 (1989): 64-76.
Though present-day readers are skeptical that Chaucer cried in repentance on his deathbed, the placement of the Parson's Tale and the "Retraction" at the end of the Canterbury Tales suggests that Chaucer followed Langland, Mandeville, Deguilleville, and Gower in retraction, but Chaucer changes the tradition. In works by each of the other four, a journey or pilgrimage is followed by episodic experience or storytelling, followed by age and perhaps penitence. Given the prevalence of this pattern, Thomas Gascoigne's account of Chaucer's deathbed repentence is likely to be true.
Gallagher, Joseph E. "Theology and Intention in Chaucer's Troilus." 7 (1972): 44-66.
Because of his profession of Christianity, Chaucer must denounce the power of love as sinful. In medieval thought, sin was a conscious choice to act against the information provided by reason; thus, Chaucer sins by composing Troilus and Criseyde, since it indicates a desire for things of the world. In the Retraction, Chaucer finally chooses the highest good, rejecting Troilus for its choice of worldly as opposed to divine love. The Second Nun's Tale demonstrates Chaucer's perception that sin willfully seeks temporal things. In the tale, Cecilia can convert an audience who chooses the unchangeable God because that audience follows Reason. Almachius treats Cecilia poorly because he chooses evil. It is not a sin for a writer to demonstrate that something is temporal, even if the writer does not make moral criticism. Since the introductory summary of Troilus and Criseyde indicates that kind of moral orientation, Chaucer probably did not intend to end by stating that writing Troilus and Criseyde was sinful. Clearly, Troilus and Criseyde do not have a virtuous love. In the Prohemium to Book III, Chaucer first shows signs that he wishes to blur the distinction between Christian love and his sympathetic presentation of the love between Troilus and Criseyde. The frequency with which this blurring occurs indicates that Chaucer intended it. Chaucer gives Troilus vaguely Christian words in his hymn, thus deepening the disguise for Chaucer's sympathy with temporal love. Though in the hymn Troilus seems to recognize love as a unifying force, nothing in the language suggests that this perception of love is any better than Troilus's former idea of love. As Troilus and Criseyde continues, more references to Fortune occur, but never with a mention of sin. Through loving Criseyde, Troilus gains greater philosophical, but not moral, understanding. This understanding allows him to continue loving Criseyde, thus demonstrating Chaucer's ability to elude the strictness of medieval Christianity.
Petty, George R., Jr. "Power, Deceit, and Misinterpretation: Uncooperative Speech in the Canterbury Tales." 27 (1993): 413-23.
Often the responses of Chaucer's characters to certain parts of the narrative reflect deep anxieties about their position in this world in light of power structures and confining discourses. By mistinterpreting texts, they can avoid the discomfort these texts create. Dorigen uses this strategy to avoid Aurelius in the Franklin's Tale; it also appears in the Nun's Priest's Tale, and the Wife of Bath uses it quite successfully. In the end the Parson uses this strategy in the Poetria nova. Chaucer's Retraction is the final instance of this strategy in the Canterbury Tales.
Portnoy, Phyllis. "Beyond the Gothic Cathedral: Post-Modern Reflections on the Canterbury Tales." 28 (1994): 279-92.
If readers add time to the elements of a gothic cathedral, they can easily analyze the fragmented narrative of the Canterbury Tales. The Parson's Prologue resolves the temporal dimension in the tales while pushing it into a timeless one. The pilgrims find themselves on a continuum of spiritual health and spiritual sickness. This continuum suggests a hole in the ideology. That the pilgrimage itself cannot escape the forces of disorder is evident in the progression from the Knight's Tale to the Miller's Tale. The Nun's Priest's Tale also raises the question of justice. The Retraction futher contributes to our sense of disorder because Chaucer uses it to remove the authorial mask.
Root, Jerry. "'Space to speak': The Wife of Bath and the Discourse of Confession." 28 (1994): 252-74.
Examination of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in light of the theories of Michel Foucault suggests that medieval confessional practice defined a new space for private speech. In the Canterbury Tales, the Parson's Tale and Chaucer's Retraction make the confessional mode most apparent. All of the pilgrims travel in a space defined by Church practice as acceptable. Even the struggle between the Friar and the Summoner takes place within that established boundary. In fact, their rivalry is built on the confessional mode. The Wife of Bath's claim for experience merely places her in the confessional mode, requiring a telling of personal experience. Her emphasis on her body reveals a desire to assert the "scandal of the domination of the female body by traditional strategies of interpretation" (257). The Wife's claims for her body and the right to marry declare a space in which she can speak and a refusal to submit to male authorities like Jerome. Her grumbling, though merely "noise" to the male establishment, creates "a space in which she can speak rather than being spoken" (262). By retelling what her husbands have done, she controls their speech and reveals their most hidden secrets. Though apparently confessional, the Wife of Bath's Prologue is a confession of her husband's private experience, not her own.