Helen Barr
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The figure in the Canterbury stained glass
Chaucerian Beckets
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Chapter One explores the movement of the body of the Pardoner between Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Canterbury Interlude and the stained glass and architecture of Canterbury Cathedral. Dramatised in the spaces between the inn and the cathedral, suspended somewhere between London and Canterbury, the Pardoner is a portable pilgrim relic whose ontology is as inscrutable as his sexual anatomy. Signed with signs of Thomas Becket’s murder and his healing ampullae of blood and water, the Pardoner’s sexually illegible body conflates the desire for the revelation of hidden human anatomy with the parading of pilgrimage trophy. The Pardoner is a concealed display of an abjected Becket and a tormented Christ as he rides away from Canterbury at the rear of his pilgrim group. The play with signs and religious practice replicates how foundational church practices and beliefs move beyond strict ecclesiastical control.

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