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Woman carrying a distaff while feeding chickens Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14 th c. England.

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Presentation on theme: "Woman carrying a distaff while feeding chickens Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14 th c. England."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Woman carrying a distaff while feeding chickens Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14 th c. England

3 Medieval English Clocks Salisbury Cathedral, c Wells Cathedral, c Well sikerer was his crowyng in his logge Than is a clokke or an abbey orlogge. (VII )

4 From Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Historiale xi.71 ( before 1260), quoted in Carleton Brown, “Mulier est hominis confusio,” Modern Language Notes, Vol. 35, No. 8 (Dec., 1920), pp What is woman? The confusion of man. An insatiable beast. A continual trouble. An unceasing battle. The wreck of the continent man. A human slave.

5 This sely wydwe and eek hir doghtres two Herden thise hennes crie and maken wo, And out at dores stirten they anon, And syen the fox toward the grove gon, And bar upon his bak the cok away, And cryden, "Out! Harrow and weylaway! Ha, ha! The fox!" and after hym they ran, And eek with staves many another man. (VII )

6 Marie de France, Fables (c. 1190) “THE COCK AND THE FOX” (from the Harvard Chaucer Page) A Cock our story tells of, who High on a dunghill stood and crew. A Fox, attracted, straight drew nigh, And spake soft words of flattery. 'Dear Sir!' said he, 'Your look's divine; I never saw a bird so fine! I never heard a voice so clear Except your father's -- ah! poor dear! His voice rang clearly, loudly – but Most clearly, when his eyes were shut!' 'The same with me!' the Cock replies, And flaps his wings, and shuts his eyes. Each note rings clearer than the last The Fox starts up, and holds him fast; Towards the wood he hies apace. But as he crossed an open space, The shepherds spy him; off they fly; The dogs give chase with hue and cry. The Fox still holds the Cock, though fear Suggests his case is growing queer. – 'Tush!' cries the Cock, 'cry out, to grieve 'em, "The cock is mine! I'll never leave him!"‘ The Fox attempts, in scorn, to shout, And opes his mouth; the Cock slips out, And, in a trice, has gained a tree. Too late the Fox begins to see How well the Cock his game has play'd; For once his tricks have been repaid. In angry language, uncontrolled, He 'gins to curse the mouth that's bold To speak, when it should silent be. 'Well,' says the Cock, 'the same with me; I curse the eyes that go to sleep Just when they ought sharp watch to keep Lest evil to their lord befall.' Thus fools contrariously do all: They chatter when they should be dumb, And when they ought to speak are mum.

7 An engraving by Wilhelm von Kaulbach for the 1857 edition of Goethe’s 'Reinecke Fuchs'.

8 God turne us every drem to goode! For hyt is wonder, be the roode, To my wyt, what causeth swevenes Eyther on morwes or on evenes; And why th'effect folweth of somme, And of somme hit shal never come; Why that is an avisioun And this a revelacioun, Why this a drem, why that a sweven, And noght to every man lyche even; Why this a fantome, why these oracles, I not; but whoso of these miracles The causes knoweth bet then I, Devyne he; for I certeinly Ne kan hem noght, ne never thinke To besily my wyt to swinke, To knowe of hir signifiaunce The gendres, neyther the distaunce Of tymes of hem, ne the causes, Or why this more then that cause is; As yf folkys complexions Make hem dreme of reflexions; Or ellys thus, as other sayn, For to gret feblenesse of her brayn, By abstinence, or by seknesse, Prison, stewe, or gret distresse, Or ellys by dysordynaunce Of naturel acustumaunce, That som man is to curious In studye, or melancolyous, Or thus, so inly ful of drede, That no man may hym bote bede Or elles that devocion Of somme, and contemplacion Causeth suche dremes ofte; Or that the cruel lyf unsofte Which these ilke lovers leden That hopen over-muche or dreden, That purely her impressions Causen hem to have visions; Or yf that spirites have the myght To make folk to dreme a-nyght; Or yf the soule, of propre kynde, Be so parfit, as men fynde, That yt forwot that ys to come, And that hyt warneth alle and some Of everych of her aventures Be avisions, or be figures, But that oure flessh ne hath no myght To understonde hyt aryght, For hyt is warned to derkly; -- But why the cause is, noght wot I. Wel worthe, of this thyng, grete clerkys, That trete of this and other werkes; For I of noon opinion Nyl as now make mensyon, But oonly that the holy roode Turne us every drem to goode! For never, sith that I was born, Ne no man elles me beforn, Mette, I trowe stedfastly, So wonderful a drem as I The tenthe day now of Decembre, The which, as I kan now remembre, I wol yow tellen everydel. Chaucer, The House of Fame 1-65

9 Nun’s Priest’s Tale outline by Maurice Hussey; reprinted in Peter Travis, Disseminal Chaucer (2010), [1-54 Prologue] Introduction of human and bird characters The Tale (I): The Dream Pertelote's interpretation (based upon Cato) Her medical advice Chauntecleer's rejection of her interpretation The first example: the murder of the pilgrim Brief moralization upon murder and punishment The second example: deaths by drowning The third example: the death of St Kenelm The reference to Scipio's dream The reference to Joseph's dreams Citation of classical examples: (i) Croesus ( ) (ii) Andromache ( ) Chauntecleer's conclusion The Tale (II): In the Yard Astronomical interlude Chauntecleer's fears Digression upon rhetoric Introduction of the Fox Digression upon treachery Digression upon Predestination The Tale (III) with moralization ( ) Sermon upon Flattery The Tale (IV): The attack upon Chauntecleer Digression upon Destiny Digression upon Venus Digression upon Richard I Classical lamentations: (i) Troy ( ) (ii) Carthage ( ) (iii) Rome ( ) The Tale (V): The Chase Couplet upon Fortune The Tale (VI): The Escape The Moral [ Epilogue]

10 Nun’s Priest’s Tale outline by Maurice Hussey; reprinted in Peter Travis, Disseminal Chaucer (2010), [1-54 Prologue] Introduction of human and bird characters The Tale (I): The Dream Pertelote's interpretation (based upon Cato) Her medical advice Chauntecleer's rejection of her interpretation The first example: the murder of the pilgrim Brief moralization upon murder and punishment The second example: deaths by drowning The third example: the death of St Kenelm The reference to Scipio's dream The reference to Joseph's dreams Citation of classical examples: (i) Croesus ( ) (ii) Andromache ( ) Chauntecleer's conclusion The Tale (II): In the Yard Astronomical interlude Chauntecleer's fears Digression upon rhetoric Introduction of the Fox Digression upon treachery Digression upon Predestination The Tale (III) with moralization ( ) Sermon upon Flattery The Tale (IV): The attack upon Chauntecleer Digression upon Destiny Digression upon Venus Digression upon Richard I Classical lamentations: (i) Troy ( ) (ii) Carthage ( ) (iii) Rome ( ) The Tale (V): The Chase Couplet upon Fortune The Tale (VI): The Escape The Moral [ Epilogue]

11 Larry Scanlon, “The Authority of Fable: Allegory and Irony in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” Exemplaria 1 (1989) : 43-68

12 Some Exegetical Readings of the Nun’s Priest’s Tale For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our l earning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4) cock = preacher enjoining alertness fox = devil/heretic cock = secular priest fox = false flattering friar Tale = allegory of fall and redemption “beem”= forbidden tree of knowledge/Cross = safety of Resurrection Friday = day of Crucifixion barnyard = paradise, ruled by a trinity (widow + 3 daughters; 3 sows; 3 cows; ram = Christ*) * except it’s not a ram, it’s a ewe named “Molly” ! (VII.2830)

13 There is allusion to serious matters here, and indeed the tale is shot through with such allusion, which has provided a temptation that modern interpreters, unwilling to regard laughter as an adequate reward for the effort expended in reading the tale, have found it difficult to resist, despite the wise warnings issued by Muscatine: The tale will betray with laughter any too-solemn scrutiny of its naked argument; if it is true that Chauntecleer and Pertelote are rounded characters, it is also true that they are chickens…Unlike fable, the Nun’s Priest’s Tale does not so much make true and solemn assertions about life as it tests truths and tries out solemnities. If you are not careful, it will try out your solemnity too. (1957, p. 242) *** *** *** The manner in which the Nun’s Priest’s Tale recoils upon all systematic attempts at interpretation is not a sign that more efforts should be made to find one that works. Its machinery is designed to defy such attempts: that is the point of the tale. Language and rhetoric and learning are noble arts, but they are constantly shown in the tale being used, by expert practitioners, to conceal the world from themselves, and themselves from themselves. They become, not means to understanding, but a series of reflecting mirrors in which we can be satisfied we shall see only those things that preserve our high opinion of ourselves….The laughter has an edge, but it is salutary, not satirical: it implicates the reader, and the critic. Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (1985), 235, 238 The Nun’s Priest’s Tale—the ironic approach

14 Larry Scanlon, “The Authority of Fable: Allegory and Irony in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” Exemplaria 1 (1989) : 43-68

15 For Chaucer’s literate audience, each of these characteristics—beast fable, debate, Catonian assertion, Latin translation, and a string of variously told narrative proofs—would have been poignantly evocative, triggering a collage of bittersweet personal memories from their early years of grammar school linguistic and literary training. …I want to emphasize that Chaucer’s parodic evocations of the classroom are not designed to satirize the foundations of the medieval liberal arts curriculum for any perceived imperfections in its pedagogical principles or literary precepts. Rather, Chaucer takes his readers back to basics in order that they might reexperience, now at a more sophisticated level, both the profundities and baffling complexities of literature. Thus, by casting his ars poetica as an Aesopian beast fable, Chaucer is reopening that interlinear space—invoking his readers’ memories of a time when they were most intimately engaged in the craft of literary analysis, imitation, and production. In the very same gesture, Chaucer zeroes in on the fundamentals of literature itself. Peter Travis, Disseminal Chaucer: Rereading The Nun’s Priest’s Tale (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), pp , 55.


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