Advertisement

Claiming The “Popet”: Ethics, Evasion, and the Pilgrim’s Progress

  • Geoffrey W. Gust
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The title of this chapter recalls that of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), a text that explores the concept of life as a journey, a process in which everyman learns, changes, and experiences profound moral development. 3 Bunyan’s vision of “man the wayfarer” provides a useful metaphor for considering “Father Chaucer’s” status as a complex cultural construction that has progressed through the ebbs and flows of English literary criticism. In addition, the idea of moral progress is particularly appropriate for a discussion of the Thopas-Melibee link in the Canterbury Tales, since it contains an explicit shift whereby the author initially represents himself as a playful “elf” who tells a ridiculous romance story, followed by a more sententious representation through which he offers the kind of authoritative wisdom that was expected of a revered medieval auctor.

Keywords

Moral Progress Mentary Nature Queer Theory English Poetry Body Criticism 
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. 2.
    Sarah Cooper, Relating to Queer Theory: Rereading Sexual Self-Definition with Irigaray, Kristeva, Wittig and Cixous (New York: Peter Lang, 2000), p. 214.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Helen Cooper comments on the contradictory nature of the Chaucerian corpus in “Chaucerian Poetics,” in New Readings of Chaucer’s Poetry, Benson and Ridyard, p. 50.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Paul Zumthor, Speaking of the Middle Ages, trans. Sarah White (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), p. 83.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    James Lorimer, “Chaucer,” North British Review 10 (1849): 306 [293–328]. It should be noted that subsequently, many critics have used variants of the same phrase uttered by Lorimer.Google Scholar
  5. 33.
    V. J. Scattergood, “Chaucer and the French War: Sir Thopas and Melibee,” in Court and Poet, ed. G. S. Burgess (Liverpool: Francis Cairns, 1981), pp. 290, 293 [287–296]. Scattergood’s account responds to an earlier reading by J. M. Manly, who felt that the tale could be read as satirizing the Flemings for the pretensions of their bourgeois knighthood (so that the verse is doubly parodic, as a criticism of social and poetic conventions). Cf. J. M. Manly, “Sir Thopas: A Satire,” Essays and Studies 13 (1928): 52–73.Google Scholar
  6. 36.
    For instance, R. F. Yeager offers an antiwar argument that is similar to Scattergood’s account cited previously; cf. R. F. Yeager, “Pax Poetica: On the Pacifism of Chaucer and Gower,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 9 (1987): 97–121.Google Scholar
  7. 39.
    The quotation here is from Simon Haines, who does not address Chaucer in particular but who clearly supports the value of literature as “moral language” for the masses. See Simon Haines, “Deepening the Self: The Language of Ethics and the Language of Literature,” in Renegotiating Ethics in Literature, Philosophy, and Theory, ed. Jane Adamson, et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 30 [21–38].Google Scholar
  8. 43.
    Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers, p. 94. Lerer’s account is offered in response to a political reading by Lee Patterson of the sort we shall examine in the following text, in which it is argued that Melibee represents a specific kind of “mirror”—one for noble children, a general rule book for royal princes (i.e., a fürstenspiegel). See Patterson, “ ‘What Man Artow’: Authorial Self-Definition in The Tale of Sir Thopas and The Tale of Melibee,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 11 (1989): 139, 147 [117–175].Google Scholar
  9. 48.
    For a brief discussion of Melibee’s relationship with its source materials, see Helen Cooper, Oxford Guides to Chaucer, pp. 314–314.Google Scholar
  10. 49.
    W. W. Lawrence, “The Tale of Melibeus,” in Essays and Studies in Honor of Carleton Brown (New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1940), pp. 101, 110 [100–110].Google Scholar
  11. 54.
    Gardiner Stillwell, “The Political Meaning of Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee,” Speculum 19.4 (1944): 434, 444 [433–444].Google Scholar
  12. 56.
    Notable accounts concerned with the text’s presumed political interests include the following: Judith Ferster, Fictions of Advice: The Literature andPolitics of Counsel in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), pp. 102–107; Phillips, An Introduction to the Canterbury Tales, pp. 177–179; David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 220–222; Strohm, Social Chaucer, pp. 161– 163; and Stephen Knight, Geoffrey Chaucer (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 138–139.Google Scholar
  13. 57.
    These quotations are drawn from Wolfgang Riehle’s article “Aspects of Chaucer’s Narratorial Self-Representation in The Canterbury Tales,” in Tales and Their Telling Difference: Zur Theorie & Geschichte der Narrativik, ed. Herbert Foltinek, Wolfgang Riehle, and Waldemar Zacharasiewicz (Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag, 1993), 140, 141 [133–147].Google Scholar
  14. 58.
    This is the view, for instance, of Celia Daileader in “The Thopas-Melibee Sequence and the Defeat of Antifeminism,” Chaucer Review 29.1 (1994): 27, 35 [26–39]. 59. Daniel Rubey, “The Five Wounds of Melibee’s Daughter: Transforming Masculinities,” in Masculinities in Chaucer, Beidler, p. 159 [157–171].Google Scholar
  15. 125.
    Ann Haskell, “Sir Thopas: The Puppet’s Puppet,” Chaucer Review 9.3 (1975): 253, 259 [253–259].Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoffrey W. Gust 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey W. Gust

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations