Advertisement

Belly Speech

  • Mary Hayes
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Like The Friar’s Tale, The Summoner’s Tale explores the relationship between profane speakers and sacred speech and thus investigates the power of the clerical voice.1 Despite the fact that Chaucer was living in a religious culture characterized by pastoral care efforts to improve the efficacy of preaching and confession, he also witnessed a foreclosure of lay involvement in the liturgy. As we learn from Wyclif, the Mass’s rituals were becoming more complicated; lay people’s voiced roles during the liturgy were taken over by clerks; and lay devotional missals stressed the importance of lay people remaining silent during the service. More so than The Friar’s Tale, The Summoner’s Tale investigates the exclusion of the laity from the Mass. The tale itself has a loosely liturgical framework: Friar John’s lengthy sermon is followed by Thomas’s pseudo-Eucharistic offering. In The Summoner’s Tale, it is as if the lay people, so improved by the pastoral care efforts that, wittingly or not, galvanized the power of the clerical voice, are themselves so empowered that they not only subvert clerical authority but also prove the value of lay speech.

Keywords

Divine Revelation Private Mass Canterbury Tale Demonic Possession Depraved Performance 
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.
    For a succinct account of how criticism of the tale has changed over the last 30 years, see John Finlayson, “Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale: Flatulence, Blasphemy, and the Emperor’s New Clothes,” Studies in Philology 104 (2007): 455–70, esp. 455–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    See Valerie Allen[not on biblio], On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages, 75; Roy Peter Clark, “Doubting Thomas in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 11 (1976): 164–78;Google Scholar
  3. Clark, “Wit and Witsunday in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Annuale Mediaevale 17 (1976): 48–57;Google Scholar
  4. John V. Fleming, “Anticlerical Satire as Theological Essay: Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Thalia 6 (1983): 5–22;Google Scholar
  5. Alan Levitan, “The Parody of Pentecost in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” University of Toronto Quarterly 40 (1971): 236–46;Google Scholar
  6. Bernard S. Levy, “Biblical Parody in The Summoner’s Tale,” Tennessee Studies in Literature 11 (1966): 45–60;Google Scholar
  7. Glending Olson, “The End of The Summoner’s Tale and the Uses of Pentecost,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999): 209–45;Google Scholar
  8. Penn R. Szittya, “The Friar as False Apostle: Antifraternal Exegesis and the Summoner’s Tale,” Studies in Philology 71 (1974): 19–46.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    H. Ansgar Kelly, “Sacraments, Sacramentals, and Lay Piety in Chaucer’s England,” Chaucer Review 28 (1993): 5–25, notes that “hali-bread” distributed after Mass served as a substitute for the Eucharist (8).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    For example, see Mary Carruthers, “Letter and Gloss in the Friar’s and Summoner’s Tales,” Journal of Narrative Technique 2 (1972): 208–214;Google Scholar
  11. Fleming, “‘Glosynge is a glorious thing, certeyn:’ A Reconsideration of The Summoner’s Tale,” The Late Middle Ages, Acta 8 (1981): 89–101;Google Scholar
  12. Jill Mann, “Anger and ‘Glosynge’, The Canterbury Tales,” Proceedings of the British Academy 76 (1990): 203–223.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    James Andreas, “‘Newe Science’ from ‘Olde Bokes’: a Bakhtinian Approach to The Summoner’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 25 (1990): 138–151, 147.Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    See 1 Kings 19:12. On God’s revelations to Moses and Elijah as they relate to The Summoner’s Tale, see Ian Lancashire, “Moses, Elijah and the Back Parts of God: Satiric Scatology in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Mosaic 14 (1981): 17–30.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Marie P. Hamilton, “The Summoner’s ‘Psalm of Davit,’” Modern Language Notes 57 (1942): 655–57, points out that the Ellsmere text says “But” (656). Its alternative, “Buf,” speaks to the nuances of the text.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 36.
    On the sexual nuances of this groping between Thomas and the friar, see Catherine S. Cox, “‘Grope wel bihynde’: The Subversive Erotics of Chaucer’s Summoner,” Exemplaria 7 (1995): 145–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. R. D. Eaton, “More ‘Groping’, The Summoner’s Tale,” Neophilogus 88 (2004): 615–21, argues contra Cox that “grope” was in fact the word normally used to describe the confessor’s interrogation of a person’s conscience.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 38.
    On the various nuances of placebo that inform Friar John’s use of it, see John Fleming, “Chaucer’s ‘Syngeth Placebo,’ and the ‘Roman de Fauvel,’” Notes and Queries 210 (1965): 17–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 42.
    Peter Travis, “Thirteen Ways of Listening to a Fart,” Exemplaria 16 (2004): 323–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 12.
    On Chaucer’s sustained interest in pryvetee, see Joseph L. Baird, “The Devil’s Privetee,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 70 (1969): 104–106; Robert Boenig, Chaucer and the Mystics: The Canterbury Tales and the Genre of Devotional Prose; and Robert Hanning, “Telling the Private Parts,”, The Idea of Medieval Literature: New Essays on Chaucer and Medieval Culture in Honor of Donald R. Howard, ed. James M. Dean and Christian Zacher, 108–25.Google Scholar
  21. 65.
    Kathleen M. Oliver, “Singing Bread, Manna, and the Clergeon’s ‘Greyn,’” Chaucer Review 31 (1997): 357–64.Google Scholar
  22. 66.
    On this Augustinian notion of speech, see Margaret W. Ferguson, “Saint Augustine’s Region of Unlikeness: The Crossing of Exile and Language,” Georgia Review 29 (1975): 842–64;Google Scholar
  23. Cynthia Hahn, “Speaking Without Tongues: The Martyr Romanus and Augustine’s Theory of Language,”, Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Timea Szell, 161–180; and Joseph Anthony Mazzeo, “St. Augustine’s Rhetoric of Silence,” Journal of the History of Ideas 23 (1962): 175–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 67.
    Fiona Somerset, “‘As just as is a squyre: The Politics of ‘Lewed Translacion’ in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999): 187207, writes that “[t]he vernacular eruption with which Thomas responds to this speech rudely shatters the friar’s model of clerical superiority” (204). Whereas I argue for the valorization of lay speech as a perverse oral performance that can ironically ventriloquize the silent Canon’s prayers, Somerset contends that the fart is a type of “lewed” speech that subverts the friar’s clerical performance.Google Scholar
  25. 70.
    J. Stephen Russell, “Song and the Ineffable in The Prioress’ Tale,” Chaucer Review 33 (1998): 176–89.Google Scholar
  26. 72.
    On the wheel’s use to amplify sounds, see Britton J. Harwood, “Chaucer on ‘Speche’: House of Fame, the Friar’s Tale, and the Summoner’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 26 (1992): 343–49.Google Scholar
  27. 74.
    On this performance, see Anne Hudson, “A Lollard Mass,” Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., vol XXXIII, pt. 2 (1972): 407–19. F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, 109, 177, 186, 377. 45–60;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 77.
    Critics who invoke religious iconography to explain the wheel image include: V. A. Kolve, “Chaucer’s Wheel of False Religion: Theology and Obscenity in ‘The Summoner’s Tale,’” in The Centre and Its Compass: Studies in Medieval Literature in Honor of Professor John Leyerle, 265–296; Levitan, “The Parody of Pentecost,” 236–46; Levy, “Biblical Parody,” 45–60; Phillip Pulsiano, “The Twelve-Spoked Wheel of the Summoner’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 382–89; and Szittya, “The Friar as False Apostle,” 19–46.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mary Hayes 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Hayes

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations