S. H. Rigby
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Misogynist versus feminist Chaucer
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This chapter outlines some of the major medieval discourses about sexual difference which inform Chaucer's depiction of women in the Canterbury Tales, in particular, the tendency of medieval writers to polarise their views of women, condemning them to the pit or elevating them to the pedestal. It asks whether any of these views can be equated with Chaucer's own position by examining the Wife of Bath's rejection of the pedestal. It explores the alternative to both the pit and the pedestal offered in the 'Tale of Melibee' and the 'Parson's Tale'. It is possible and legitimate for modern critics to argue that Chaucer intended peple to interpret the Wife as a corroboration of misogynist attitudes. It would be wrong to portray medieval views of women as universally or straight forwardly misogynist or to see the idealisation of women as the only medieval alternative to such misogyny.

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Chaucer in context

Society, allegory and gender


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