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Love, Sex, and Desire. Chaucer, The Millers Prologue and Tale. ENGL 320 Wednesday Sept 5, 2012 What has a medieval miller got to do with love?

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Presentation on theme: "Love, Sex, and Desire. Chaucer, The Millers Prologue and Tale. ENGL 320 Wednesday Sept 5, 2012 What has a medieval miller got to do with love?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Love, Sex, and Desire. Chaucer, The Millers Prologue and Tale. ENGL 320 Wednesday Sept 5, 2012 What has a medieval miller got to do with love?

2 The Miller, detail from The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (c ), Ellesmere Manuscript, Huntington Library, San Marino CA

3 Medieval windmill, the Luttrell Psalter (1320s), British Library Add. MS 42130

4 The medieval estates: Knights fight for all; the clergy pray for all; peasants work for all.

5 Fabliaux (the singular is fabliau): a definition Hines (1993): stories in the vernacular to be laughed at... [F]abliau narrative is characteristically brief and the plot is complicated and problematic only for some of the characters within the tales, not for the well-informed readers or audience of the piece.... irony [is] a typical feature of the experience of reading a fabliau... deception played by one or more characters on one or more other characters [is an indispensable element] followed by a misdeed committed by the deceiver(s). Who is laughing at whom in the Millers Tale?

6 Medieval English 190: effictio (how to do a head-to-toe description of physical appearance), Geoffrey de Vinsauf, Poetria Nova (c. 1202) Let Natures compass draw the outline of the head; let the color of gold gleam in the hair; let lilies grow on the lofty forehead. Let the eyebrows equal black whortleberries in appearance; let a milky way intersect the twin eyebrows; let restraint rule the shape of the nose, lest it fall short of, or exceed, the proper bounds. …. Let the face be like the dawn, neither rosy nor white, but of both and neither color at the same time. Let the diminutive mouth shine forth like a half circle; let the swelling lips be moderately full, and red, fired with a mild flame. Let order join together the snow-white, even teeth. …. Let the milky supporting column of the head, of exquisite color, raise the mirror of the face on high;

7 Not really Alison? The Dance of Mirth. Roman de la rose (mid-fifteenth- century). Oxford, Bodleian, MS Douce 364 fol. 8r.

8 How does Alison match up?. … let the shoulders be similar, neither sloping nor rising but resting in a straight line. Let the upper arms, as long as they are slender, be enchanting. Let the fingers be soft and slim in substance, smooth and milk white in appearance, long and straight in shape: in them let the beauty of the hand shine forth. Let the snowy bosom present both breasts like virginal gems set side by side. Let the waist be slim, a mere handful. I will not mention the parts beneath: here the imagination speaks better than the tongue. But let the leg show itself graceful; let the remarkably dainty foot wanton with its own daintiness. And thus let beauty descend from the top of the head to the very feet, and let all be adorned alike to the smallest detail.

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10 Limburg Brothers, astrological man/zodiac man (c ) Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

11 Works Cited Dyer, Christopher. Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Hines, John. The Fabliau in English. London: Longman, But who is the butt of the parody?


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