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Father Chaucer Generating Authority in The Canterbury Tales


Father Chaucer Generating Authority in The Canterbury Tales

  • ISBN 13:


  • ISBN 10:


  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 02/23/2024
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The monograph series Oxford Studies in Medieval Literature and Culture showcases the plurilingual and multicultural quality of medieval literature and actively seeks to promote research that not only focuses on the array of subjects medievalists now pursue in literature, theology, and philosophy, in social, political, jurisprudential, and intellectual history, the history of art, and the history of science but also that combines these subjects productively. It offers innovative studies on topics that may include, but are not limited to, manuscript and book history; languages and literatures of the global Middle Ages; race and the post-colonial; the digital humanities, media and performance; music; medicine; the history of affect and the emotions; the literature and practices of devotion; the theory and history of gender and sexuality, ecocriticism and the environment; theories of aesthetics; medievalism.

Geoffrey Chaucer has long been lauded as the "Father of English Poetry." For later authors and scholars, the late medieval poet has served as a symbol of male authority and literary paternity upon whom successive centuries of the English canon may comfortably rest.

Yet for Chaucer himself, the idea of paternity—whether poetic or biological—was far from stable or reassuring. Reading Chaucer's masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, alongside its theological, poetic, and scientific contemporaries, this book argues that Chaucer was fascinated by the promise offered by metaphors of reproduction, paternity, and lineage. However, in the wake of the Black Death, Hundred Years' War, and other demographic crises, Chaucer could not help but perceive paternal authority as a transitory, uncertain ambition, one capable of devastating male authority as surely as it could enshrine it. Likewise, medieval Christian doctrine taught that the earth was but a temporary, sorrowful abode for corrupt, mortal men, who committed a form of blasphemy by longing for earthly memorializations of their lives.

Chaucer knew that God had set sharp limits upon man's ability to create with certainty and to determine his own posterity. Still, what could be more human than the longing to wrest some small authority from one's own flesh? This book argues that within The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer consistently confronted the impossibility of men's desire to see their offspring—both biological and poetic—last beyond their own deaths, to claim the authority simultaneously promised and denied by the very act of creation.

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