Nicholas Perkins
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The traffic in people
Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and Troilus and Criseyde
in The gift of narrative in medieval England
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Chapter 3 pursues the idea that people may at times be givers, receivers and exchanged objects in patterns of reciprocal relations. It focuses on prisoners and gendered exchange in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale and Troilus and Criseyde, reading them through debates over the ‘traffic in women’, and through the reflective work of anthropologist Marilyn Strathern on gender and the gift. How does Chaucer represent these texts’ protagonists as both given objects and desiring subjects? Strathern’s notion of ‘partible’ persons, and her attention to the way that people’s agency is expressed through the obligations in which they are bound, prompt a reading of Chaucer’s poems as a network of obligations, forces and gendered performances, embedded in which are notions of what it means to have agency, to give, and to be given.

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