“Unto Hir Lyves Ende”: Time and the Wife of Bath’s Remembered Bodies

  • Sachi Shimomura
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In the previous two chapters, I have discussed visual judgment by ultimate (divine) and penultimate (human) audiences respectively. These audiences approach judgment from different perspectives because of their differing positions in time. Yet both these vantage points on the end of time—the penultimate point when judgment is still changeable, the ultimate point when judgment is final and irrevocable—presume the inevitability of an end, most often defined in Christian eschatological terms, at which all will be publicly revealed. The works that encompass such vantage points are teleological in the sense that they approach that end and the concomitant crystallization of Judgment inexorably—without delay or evasion.


Visual Judgment External Audience Visual Imagination Canterbury Tale Physical Display 
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  1. 3.
    Winthrop Wetherbee, Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales, Landmarks of World Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 84: “The Wife’s autobiographical prologue is largely a history of her body—its marketability, its desires, its aging, and the effects of its vicissitudes on her sense of self.”Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Caroline Walker Bynum, “Shape and Story,” in Metamorphosis and Identity (New York: Zone, 2001), pp. 180–81 [163–90].Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    V. A. Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (Stanford: Stanford University, 1984), esp. pp. 32–42, 48, 59–60.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    Paul de Man, “Autobiography as De-facement,” Modern Language Notes 94 (1979): 921 [919–30].Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    See Louise O. Fradenburg, “The Wife of Bath’s Passing Fancy,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 8 (1986): 31–58. Fradenburg comments, “Through such masterful strokes as the rhyming of dayeryes/fayeryes the Wife evokes the incommensurability of the marvelous and the everyday and exposes their dependence on each other” (48). While Fradenburg consigns the Wife’s evocation of the past to the realm of “bourgeois romance” and “nostalgic fantasy,” I hope to show its deeper narratogical impact upon the Wife’s relationship to her audiences.Google Scholar
  6. 33.
    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 2nd edn., trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1995 ), pp. 3–69.Google Scholar

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© Sachi Shimomura 2006

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  • Sachi Shimomura

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