Advertisement

The Pardoner’s Genders: Linguistic and Other

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Gender Identity Grammatical Gender Gender Theory Masculine Gender Feminine Gender 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    R. W Connell, Masculinities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p. 71.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Judith Lorber, Paradoxes of Gender (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Donna J. Haraway, ‘“Gender’ for a Marxist Dictionary:The Sexual Politics of a Word,” in her Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 131Google Scholar
  4. Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex,” in Toward an Anthropol-ogy of Women, ed. Rayna R. Reiter (New York: Monthly Review, 1975), pp. 157–210.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Donald R. Howard, The Idea of the Canterbury Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 343–44.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Dinshaw, “Chaucer’s Queer Touches/A Queer Touches Chaucer,” Exemplaria 7 (1995), p. 89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 9.
    Monica McAlpine, “The Pardoner’s Homosexuality and How It Matters,” PMLA 95 (1980), p. 11. On the slippage in medieval discourse among sex, gender, and sexualityCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Joan Cadden, Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages: Medicine, Science, and Culture (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 169–227.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (1978, repr.Vintage: New York, 1980), p. 101.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    See Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), p. 414Google Scholar
  11. John A. Alford, “The Grammatical Metaphor:A Survey of Its Use in the Middle Ages,” Speculum 57 (1982), pp. 731–33 and 750–54, as well as Ziolkowski’s book, cited below (n. 18).Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Jan Ziolkowski, Alan of Lille’s Grammar of Sex (Cambr dge, MA: Medieval Academy, 1985), p. 15.Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    Monique Wittig, “The Mark of Gender,” in her The Straight Mind and Other Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), p. 76. cf. Luce Irigaray on “the unconscious translation of gender into discourse” in “The Three Genders,” in her Sexes and Genealogies, trans. Gillian C Gill (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 172–76.Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter with Car-olyn Burke (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 122.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    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.Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    While historical and critical studies on pederasty in premodern cultures are numerous, though less so for the Middle Ages than for the ancient world, no critic to my knowledge has linked the Pardoner with this practice. For some general remarks on medieval pederasty, see John Boswell, Christian-ity, 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. 143–44 and 251–52. (Boswell assimilates me-dieval pederasty to the modern category of “child abuse” without demon-strating that it was regarded this way in the Middle Ages.) Mathew S. Kuefler asserts a connection between castration and the preservation of at-tractive prepubescent qualities: see “Castration and Eunuchism in the Mid-dle Ages,” in Handbook of Medieval Sexuality, ed.Vern L. Bullough and James A. Brundage (NewYork: Garland, 1996), pp. 286–87.Google Scholar
  17. On religious and sec-ular sanctions against pederasty, see Michael Goodich, The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period (Santa Barbara [?], Dorset Press, 1979), pp. 27 and 83. The eroticized gender ambiguity of boys has been theorized by Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cul-tural Anxiety (1992; repr. HarperCollins. NewYork, 1993), pp. 165–85.Google Scholar
  18. 31.
    Extracts fromTrevet’s “Commentary on Seneca’s Tragedies” are translated in Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c. 1100-c.1375: The Commentary Tradition, ed. A. J. Minns and A. B. Scott with David Wallace, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 344; Dante Alighieri, Epistole, XIII, ed. Arsenio Frugoni and Giorgio Brugnoli, in his Opere minori, 2 vols. (Milan: Riccardo Ricciardi, 1979), 2:616; trans. “Epistle to Can Grande della Scala: Extract,” in Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, ed Minnis and Scott, p. 461. See also the “Prologue” to Guido da Pisa’s Commentary on Dante’s Comedy, trans. in Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism, trans. Minnis and Scott, p. 474.Google Scholar
  19. 35.
    Many critics have noted the Pardoner’s fondness for drink; John Bowers, for one, links him to “alcoholism.” See Bowers, “Dronkenesse Is Ful of Stryvyng’: Alcoholism and Ritual Violence in Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale,” ELH 57 (1990): 757–84. Chaucer relates Bacchus to drunkenness in the Manciple’s Prologue (IX, 99–101). The ancient myths of Bacchus reveal further suggestive parallels with the Pardoner: Bacchus is a stranger, a god who always comes from elsewhere (compare the Pardoner who comes both from “Rouncivale” and “the court of Rome” (I, 670–71); Bacchus has consistent difficulties being accepted as a god, as the Pardoner finds it difficult to gain acceptance as a religious authority among the pilgrims (as we saw in the introduction); and Bacchus is regularly, like the Pardoner, associated with dismemberment (see chapter 6). For these aspects of the god, see Marcel Detienne, Dionysos at Large, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 3–26.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    Susan Crane, Gender and Romance in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert S. Sturges 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Sturges

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations