The Pardoner, the Preacher, and (Gender) Politics
  • Robert S. Sturges
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In the following chapters, I shall be analyzing Chaucer’s Pardoner as a potentially subversive figure in terms of gender; one who, in his unan-chored oscillation among various possible sexes, genders, and erotic practices, could pose a threat to patriarchal authority. But he will also appear as Chaucer’s straw man, a figure who introduces this subversive potential only so that it can be disciplined by representatives of medieval authority, especially the Host and the Knight. In addition, the Pardoner will appear as a patriarchal figure himself, one who rejects the feminine and is anxious to assume the signs of a phallic and authoritative masculinity. But first, in this introduction, I would like both to ground these fluctuations in material reality and in poetic language, and to forecast some of the specific arguments I shall subsequently pursue in more detail. How might these disjunctive, discontinuous versions of the Pardoner function in terms of fourteenth-century politics? In what ways might gender be a factor in the political life of late medieval England? How might the economy of court patronage affect and be affected by the politics of gender? And how might all of these questions be related to Chaucer’s own status as court poet?


Body Politic Gender Theory Poetic Language Canterbury Tale Discursive Framework 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Alfred David, ’The Strumpet Muse:Art and Morals in Chaucer’s Poetry (Bloom-ington: Indiana University Press, 1976), p. 92.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Steven Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381, The New Histori-cism: Studies in Cultural Poetics 27 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), p. 225.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), p. 279.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Paul Strohm, Social Chaucer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 153–54, 152.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Susan Crane, “The Writing Lesson of 1381,” in Chaucer’s England: Literature in Historical Context, ed. Barbara Hanawalt, Medieval Studies at Minnesota 4 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 215.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    See Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (Madison: University ofWisconsin Press, 1989), pp. 162–68.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Caroline Walker Bynum, “Women Mystics and Eucharistic Devotion in the Thirteenth Century,” in her Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Urzone, 1992), pp. 146–47; Introduction to Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, ed. Linda Lomperis and Sarah Stanbury, New Cultural Studies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), p. ix.Google Scholar
  8. 31.
    Jeffrey Richards, Sex, Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 143.Google Scholar
  9. Michael Goodich, The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, CA [?]: Dorset Press, 1979), pp. 7–10Google Scholar
  10. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 283–86.Google Scholar
  11. 35.
    For instance, by Alfred David, The Strumpet Muse:Art and Morals in Chaucer’s Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), p. 6, and by Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, p. 160.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert S. Sturges 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Sturges

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations