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Chaucer’s Feminine Subjects: Figures of Desire in the by J. Pitcher

By J. Pitcher

This learn indicates how modern conception can serve to explain buildings of identification and economies of hope in medieval texts. Bringing the assets of psychoanalytic and poststructuralist thought to endure on Chaucer's stories approximately girls, this ebook addresses these registers of the Canterbury venture that stay significant issues for contemporary feminist concept: the specificity of female wish, the cultural articulation of gender, the common sense of sacrifice as a cultural excellent, the constitution of misogyny and family violence. This e-book maps out the ways that Chaucer's rhetoric isn't really basically a component of fashion or an tool of persuasion however the very matrix for the illustration of de-centered subjectivity.

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At once pointing to Ovidian mythology and to Alison’s own marital history, Midas represents both her husbands and Alison herself. The contextual overdetermination of this figure in turn generates antithetical versions of Chaucer’s agenda, whether protofeminist or Augustinian. If this exemplum shows the Wife’s polemic against exploitative husbands and truth-telling wives, it also censors her for her Midas-like preferences. To register a signifying disjunction such as this one is crucial not only for the way it clarifies a history of criticism marked by widely divergent figures of the author, but also for identifying the contours of Chaucer’s reading of identity, desire, and sexual difference.

What the Knight’s concession and the Old Woman’s vow of fidelity have in common with the “gentilesse” digression are the contradictory versions of the self they represent. In each case, an ostensibly unified statement is rendered equivocal by either its wording or its context of enunciation. The Old Woman’s promise to be faithful ironically ties her to that which the vow would deny: the promiscuous feminine desire of misogynist history. And the Knight’s submission, suspended between mechanical concession and genuine contrition, fails to yield a clear picture of his subjective orientation.

To read “Bath” as a trope, a figure of the disseminating properties of language, is not to locate Chaucer within a misogynist tradition in which “woman” is a text to be read. Rather, it is to make explicit the psychoanalysis implicit 28 C H A U C E R’ S F E M I N I N E S U B J E C T S in the Wife of Bath’s text: the subject of desire comes into view as an effect of differences inhabiting the same chain of signifiers. 1. 10 Far from compromising the intelligibility of the text, irony was thought to clarify and enhance its argument.

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