The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Boucher, Holly Wallace. "Nominalism: The Difference for Chaucer and Boccaccio." 20 (1986): 213-20.
Dante and the poet of the Queste del Sainte Graal both believed that poetry revealed truth and imitated divine order. Chaucer and Boccaccio, however, display different attitudes toward literature. Nominalism altered artists' perception of literature so that by the fourteenth century, they no longer thought that art revealed truth or divine order. Fourteenth-century writers play with words and meanings, as Boccaccio does in the tale of Frate Cipolla and as Chaucer does in the Summoner's Tale.
Calabrese, Michael A. "Meretricious Mixtures: Gold, Dung, and the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale." 27 (1993): 277-92.
Examination of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale in light of the Antiovidianus reveals an "exploration of the tension between art and morality that engaged [Chaucer] throughout his poetic career" (278). The primary point of attack for the writer of Antiovidianus is Ovid's ability to turn "dung" into golden poetry, a direct contradiction of the traditional way of reading pagan poetry. Thus Chaucer's portrayal of the Canon's work parallels the Antiovidianus writer's view of Ovid's works. The Yeoman also connects sexuality to the acquisition of such an art.
Di Cesare, Mario A. "Cristoforo Landino on the Name and the Nature of Poetry: The Critic as Hero." 21 (1986): 155-81.
Disputationes Camaldulenses is Cristoforo Landino's primary work. The work is divided into four books. Each book discusses a different topic: 1) the active and contemplative lives, 2) the ultimate good, 3) the Aeneid books I-IV, and 4) the Aeneid books IV-VI. Contrary to scholarly opinion, Disputationes Camaldulenses is not primarily a philosophical work, but a careful consideration of poetry that puts forth the view of the poet as hero. Landino chooses Alberti for his primary figure because Alberti modeled a balance between activity and contemplation and because "he . . . unites all the artists in himself" (163). Alberti thus becomes the poet-hero. In his work, Landino achieves harmony between Christian, Platonic, and Humanistic thought. For Landino, critic and poet are closely connected; both are active and contemplative figures. The poet is, however, of a higher order than the critic. In Disputationes Camaldulenses, poetry not only contains and supersedes all arts, it becomes "the way of knowing" (176).
Eberle, Patricia J. "Commercial Language and the Commercial Outlook in the General Prologue." 18 (1983): 161-74.
The references to money in the Canterbury Tales show Chaucer's assumptions of a financially sophisticated audience aware of venal satire. In the courtly love tradition, money was spoken of only as a reward or gift, and commercial activities were ignored. The fabliau maintains this distinction, since characters focus on spending and earning. The General Prologue, however, assumes characteristics of both romance and fabliau, thus implying that Chaucer wrote for an audience that would appreciate both traditions. The Host points out that time is money and that poetry is idleness. The pilgrims treat each other in such a way as to suggest that professions, and therefore money, are closely linked to who people are.
Ebin, Lois A. "The Theme of Poetry in Dunbar's 'Goldyn Targe.'" 7 (1972): 147-59.
Focused on skillfully creating poetry, Dunbar examines poets and poetry in terms of the natural world and the artistic world. In the 'Goldyn Targe,' Dunbar probes the extremes possible in a dream vision. Section I shows how the sun affects the countryside. In the dream portion, the poet makes this effect analogous to the poet's effect on his subject. References to Homer and Cicero shift the readers' focus to the allegory. In Section III, light becomes good writing: the poet should elucidate his matter in the same way which the dream section has examined poets and poetry. Dunbar's view of the relationship between the two appears in his other works as well.
Ebin, Lois. "The Role of the Narrator in the Prologues to Gavin Douglas's Eneados." 14 (1980): 353-65.
The prologues to Eneados picture a narrator whose faltering belief in the value of poetry changes to a renewed sense of value and creativity paralleling Aneas's journey. In the process, the narrator also presents a defense of poetry. In Eneados, the narrator's experience of poetry centers on the prologue to Book VII, the numerical center of the work. At this point, the narrator emerges from a winter of decreasing poetic powers. The following prologues show the narrator directing his poetic powers in an explicitly Christian direction as he attempts "to reconcile his artistic and moral impulses" (362).
Kiernan, Kevin S. "The Art of the Descending Catalogue, and a Fresh Look at Alisoun." 10 (1975): 1-16.
As demonstrated in the works of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, appropriate description of a beautiful woman began with her head and worked downward to her feet. Writers could achieve different effects by altering the order of the catalogue or by using clothing to draw attention to various body parts. Chaucer's description of Alisoun in the Miller's Tale demonstrates this tradition as do his descriptions of Criseyde, the Wife of Bath, and the Prioress. Though Chaucer's presentation of Emily in the Knight's Tale is not a catalogue, it functions like one in that the reader examines Emily's body. Writers also use catalogues to create humor, particularly by describing someone other than a beloved lady as in Chaucer's description of Sir Thopas. The use of the catalogue to describe ugliness in The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell demonstrates the standard of beauty by opposition. When Chaucer uses the catalogue to describe Alisoun, he involves the reader in the Miller's leering.
Kinneavy, Gerald B. "The Poet in The Palice of Honour." 3 (1969): 280-303.
Gavin Douglas's The Palice of Honour shows a poet seeking honor through his poetry, though he recognizes that wisdom, chastity, and virtue could also gain him honor. The conventional opening actually serves to direct attention to the poet's powers of creation. The change from May garden to wasteland, representations of the avenues of wisdom and charity which the poet sees, and the complaint against the inconstancy of Venus all underscore the poet's desire for honor while depicting the ways in which he is incapable of achieving it. The poet recognizes his need to be saved from Venus (whom he has insulted) and from the wasteland in which he finds himself. Calliope, the muse of poetry, comes to rescue him, but to be released from Venus' court, the poet must write, thereby focusing attention primarily on the creative poetic faculty. A nymph takes the poet on a journey, showing him the materials (beautiful sights) out of which he can make poetry. The only resting place is the fountain of poetry. From here, the poet can begin seeking the Palice, but his poetry demonstrates that he still has much to learn. At the end, the poem asserts that the poet ought to live a virtuous life, and the poet demonstrates an understanding of his art and its purpose, thus eventually gaining the Palice of Honor.
Lenaghan, R. T. "Chaucer's Circle of Gentlemen and Clerks." 18 (1983): 155-60.
Most court poets held other offices at court such as clerk or customs officer. These official duties were more important than writing poetry. Because of the political atmosphere in which a number of powerful noblemen were jockeying for rulership of the king's household, administrative skills were highly valued. Each group of officials also became a social structure. The poems Chaucer wrote to Scogan and Bukton reveal a sense of social equality. Even in writing to the king, Chaucer develops a sense of equality, as is seen in "Lak of Stedfastness" and the "Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse."
Manning, Stephen. "Troilus, Book V: Invention and the Poem as Process." 18 (1984): 288-302.
Troilus and Criseyde, particularly Book V, reveals a concern with the mutability of poetry and the Narrator's metamorphosis from narrator to poet. Medieval writers thought of poetry in two ways. Like Geoffrey of Vinsauf, some writers thought that creating poetry was like building a house; other writers believed, like Boethius, that Fortune had a significant part in writing. Chaucer follows the Boethian view in Troilus and Criseyde. Inventio includes mimesis and imagination, and Chaucer's narrator employs both. In the Epilogue, the narrator realizes the theme of his story and so gives himself a unified identity as narrator and poet.
Parkinson, David J. "Henryson's Scottish Tragedy." 25 (1991): 355-62.
In the Testament of Cresseid readers perceive the fascination of Middle Scots poets with solitary, often disfigured, wanderers, as Criseyde is here depicted to be. In the Testament, Henryson addresses a fundamental concern of Middle Scots poetry: the tension between the substantial topics of loss, winter, and old age and the lighter, passing topics of youth, beauty, and spring. Given this dichotomy, Henryson questions the moral validity of poetry.
Quinn, William. "Memory and the Matrix of Unity in The King's Quair." 15 (1981): 332-55.
The King's Quair explores the theory that all memories have equal impact. The opening of the poem refers to Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy and gives the impression that the young man presently writes the poem. The tension between present and past becomes a theme as the poem progresses. Eventually, the loosely connected materials of the opening resolve into a sustained memory--the first sight of the protagonist's beloved. Throughout The King's Quair, the protagonist uses conventions in unorthodox ways. The relation of the dream vision section to the rest of the poem shows the poet's ability to unify seemingly disparate elements. Unlike Boethius, the protagonist rises to the level of the spheres, but returns to the sublunary world. The meeting between the protagonist and Fortune epitomizes the paradoxical difference between the heavenly and sublunary worlds. Memory allows the poet to join the real to the ideal and thus creates the unity of the poem.
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.
Shaw, Judith Davis. "Lust and Lore in Gower and Chaucer." 19 (1984): 110-22.
Chaucer and Gower treat lore differently. Both believe that lore is the wisdom of the past, but Chaucer doubts that lore can be used effectively in modern times. Gower shows no doubt that lore has something to say to his era. Chaucer's characters construe authority (lore) to suit their own ends; Gower's characters display an honest desire to learn. Chaucer and Gower also treat lust differently. Few of the Canterbury Tales combine meaning and delight. Gower avoids complex rhetorical figures, however, and focuses on his text, succeeding in mingling teaching and delight.