Jews as Others and Neighbors: Encountering Chaucer’s Prioress in the Classroom
Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale is one of the best-known textual representations of medieval anti-Semitism, and as such, it remains a difficult text to teach and discuss in the classroom. When students consider The Prioress’s Tale alongside other anti-Jewish exempla, they are able to view these texts as co-participants along a continuum of negative medieval representations of Jews. This structure introduces students to qualities of ambiguity, ambivalence, and desire that complicate Christian beliefs about Jews. Concepts drawn from neighbor theory illuminate the contradictory play of both identification and alienation in these medieval texts, which assists in recontextualizing The Prioress’s Tale as one narrative representation among others that grapple with the figure of the Jew as Christianity’s most proximate spiritual neighbor.