IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 506: The Canterbury Tales Revisited

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:David Matthews, Department of English & American Studies, University of Manchester
Paper 506-aChaucer's Franklin's Tale, the Good Life, and the Gift
(Language: English)
Cliodhna Carney, Department of English, National University of Ireland, Galway
Index terms: Anthropology, Economics - General, Language and Literature - Middle English
Paper 506-bQueer Punishments: Tragic and Comic Sodomy in the Death of Edward II and Chaucer's Miller's Tale
(Language: English)
Kathleen A. Bishop, General Studies Program, New York University
Index terms: Art History - General, Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - German, Sexuality
Paper 506-cDisplaying Rape: Medieval Legal Discourse and Critics of Chaucer's Reeve's Tale
(Language: English)
Heidi Breuer, Department of English Language & Literatures, Wright State University, Ohio
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Law
Paper 506-dThe Monk's Tale as Pseudo-Sermon
(Language: English)
Leona C. Fisher-Sankhla, University of California, Riverside
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Liturgy, Religious Life, Rhetoric
Abstract

Abstract paper -a: This paper will examine the Franklin’s interest in hospitality, generosity and ‘gentilesse’ in terms of the modern anthropological trope of ‘the gift’, utilising contemporary medieval theories of grace and twentienth-century insights into the impossibility of pure altruistic giving. I will seek to discover whether there is an alternative to the two extreme and polarised views of the Franklin’s character (the perfectly moral and the vulgar) that have prevailed in the scholarship on the tale. I shall also look at the mechanism for resolution of the moral dilemma in the tale itself, to see to what extent the Franklin projects a distinctive view of ‘gentilesse’ into the tale he tells.

Abstract paper -b: Edward II was assassinated for his homosexual relationship with Hugh Despenser. He was allegedly sodomized with a red hot poker. This paper will focus on the resonances this act would have had for Chaucer and his audience, in particular in the denouement of the Miller’s Tale, where Nicholas is sodomized by his rival Absolon. I will also explore the widespread use of this ‘comic’ motif in the visual arts as seen in the pages of illuminated manuscripts.

Abstract paper -c: Scholars often confront the sexual violence in Chaucer’s poetry, but show a surprising refusal to interpret the sexual encounters of The Reeve’s Tale as rapes, usually labeling them ‘seductions’. I argue that this interpretation participates in an erasure of sexual violence encouraged by certain 14th-century English legal discourses, specifically, those positioning the public display of a woman’s bruised, bleeding body as the most acceptable proof of rape, and appropriated by Chaucer in this tale. Reading the rapes in The Reeve’s Tale as seductions perpetuates a cultural tolerance, inherited from medieval legal discourse, for erasing sexual violence by demanding its public display.

Abstract paper -d: This paper proposes that in delivering his so-called ‘tragedies’ the Monk appropriates (and misuses) elements of the medieval sermon, thus attempting to suffuse his tales and himself with an aspect of holiness. His miserable failure to successfully use elements of a genre he ought to be familiar with furthers his status as a farcical figure in both the pilgrim’s eyes and (ought to do so) in the eyes of Chaucer’s readers.