The Pardoner’s Genders: Linguistic and Other

  • Robert S. Sturges
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In the first three chapters of this book, I will be examining a number of the discursive contexts in which Chaucer’s Pardoner is situated, with specific reference to three related components of gender identity: the sexed body, socially constructed gender presentation, and erotic practice. While at least some late- twentieth-century readers distinguish among these three components, medieval sources sometimes do not, often assuming instead that what we call anatomical sex, gendered behaviors, and erotic object choice ideally function as one, expressing a univocal gender identity. Nevertheless, because this book as a whole will be questioning such univocity, it seems useful to distinguish among the three components at the outset, in order to clarify how they do and do not function, together and in themselves, in the Pardoner’s case. And because what I intend to examine in this book is less often Chaucer’s intentions than the cultural Imaginary that conditioned the production of his texts, I will also be calling upon recent gender theorists to shed light on various conjunctions and disjunctions among the three components, relations that reveal anxieties about gender that span the centuries since Chaucer wrote. Once again, I attempt both a historical and a transhistorical understanding of the problematics of gender as they are revealed through the Pardoner, in the hope that each can illuminate the other.


Gender Identity Grammatical Gender Gender Theory Masculine Gender Feminine Gender 
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© Robert S. Sturges 2000

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