This book on Geoffrey Chaucer explores the relationship between Chaucer's poetry and the change and conflict characteristic of his day and the sorts of literary and non-literary conventions that were at his disposal for making sense of the society around him. Critics who consider the social meaning of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales fall into two main schools: those who present his social thought as an expression of the dominant spirit or ideology of his day and those who see Chaucer as possessing a more heterodox voice. Many of the present generation of Chaucer critics have been trained either as 'Robertsonians' or as 'Donaldsonians'. For D. W. Robertson, even those medieval poems which do not explicitly address religious issues were frequently intended to promote the Augustinian doctrine of charity beneath a pleasing surface; for E. Talbot Donaldson, there are 'no such poems in Middle English'. The book sets out the basics of the Augustinian doctrine of charity and of medieval allegorical theory and examines 'patristic' interpretations of Chaucer's work, particularly of the 'Nun's Priest Tale'. It looks at the humanist alternative to the patristic method and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the patristic approach. The book also outlines some of the major medieval discourses about sexual difference which inform Chaucer's depiction of women, in particular, the tendency of medieval writers to polarise their views of women, condemning them to the pit or elevating them to the pedestal.
, Chaucer takes our sinfulness for granted and is more
interested in ‘the marvellous variety of life in a world which,
however sinful, is the only world we’ve got’. For Robertson,
even those medievalpoems which do not explicitly address religious
issues were frequently intended to promote the Augustinian doctrine of
charity beneath a pleasing surface; for Donaldson, there are ‘no
such poems in Middle
to detect and explore the non-representational capacities and orientations of medievalpoems without immediately reinscribing them within a representational teleology, we are able to perceive them at work in an energetic world. In understanding medievalpoems as active in this way, we also have that much more of a chance of doing what I believe Brodeur wanted to do for Beowulf in constructing a fragile framework for the study and appreciation of its aesthetics at mid-century: that is, to translate the poem—in the sense of allowing it to recrystallize—in the
within its own post-war intellectual geologies and literary histories—as a comparative horizon for the Old English poem will suggest the usefulness of cultivating a greater critical capacity to detect, comprehend, and explore the non-representational capacities and orientations of medievalpoems without immediately re-inscribing them within a representational teleology. As a return to aesthetics that cannot be reduced to formalism, a naive account of a Kantian exhibition of aesthetic ideas, or a transhistorical sensualism, this effort will remain tied to language
in the darkest imaginable fashion, reminding of a time dominated by
war and epidemics … the time of
torture, gallows, and François Villon’s
Other late medievalpoems singled out by the band reinforce this
bleak vision of the Middle Ages. Folkfuck Folie bases one
song on the devil’s speech about the superiority of the
off music, language became self-sufficient as the vehicle of verse, and memory assumed the
function of aesthetic distance which had been earlier accorded to music. 19
Douglas’s attention to harmony and cosmology
reflects a nuanced and humanist-complected presentation of music not commonly found in other
medievalpoems, especially dream visions. The extreme to which he pushes this temporal and
affective antinomy is deeply grotesque.
More generally, Douglas’s engagement with sound and
lyric and less human .
My contention here is not that Beowulf is somehow indistinguishable from these mid-century poetics or would somehow, ahistorically, comprehend itself as the kind of serial poem that emerges in Blaser's and Spicer's poetry. But by thus thinking comparatively with the serial poem, we learn something about the always partial and so necessarily serial and aleatorily iterative entanglements of poetry and not-poetry in Beowulf. We learn that an early medievalpoem could enact a narrative poetics in such a way to contest
The scholastic philosophy most famous for theorizing intentio belongs to a moment after Beowulf, but the debt of modern(ist) phenomenology to that term (especially through Husserl's engagement with scholasticism via his teacher, Franz Brentano) renders it useful in imagining the activity of a medievalpoem in terms of perceptual experience.
As they develop across the Middle Ages, terms for such aesthetic
way, with you. The chapter’s title modernizes, as a kind of choreography of stillness, a term the medievalpoem uses to express the limits of arithmetic when coping with who we are, alone, together.
Chapters 7 and 8 , “Lyric medievalism” and “Lyric theology,” are two sides of the same coin, or, perhaps, two coins of the same side, as they each read closely a handful of modern lyric poems devoted, in various ways, to medieval objects and experiences. “Lyric medievalism” shows how B. H. Fairchild, Lynda Hull and Rynn Williams evoke the Middle Ages as a way of
Here, the destined encounter with wilderness as the locale of revelation
is rather like that in the medievalpoem Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight. Having encountered the Green Knight in the crowded festive
hall at Christmas time, Gawain must go out into the wilderness a year
later in search of the man of the man he beheaded (who immediately
picked up his head and left the hall), and there receive the return blow.
Like Gawain, but in hired car, rather than on horseback, Hallett sets
out for the foothills:
The foothills of Cadair Idris are beautiful beyond