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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?
KeywordsBody Politic Gender Theory Poetic Language Canterbury Tale Discursive Framework
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