Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Week 3: Chaucer "The Marriage Group"

Here's the updated Canterbury Tales study guide -- I've only updated stuff under the section "The Marriage Group."

Questions, Connections, etc
  • old age and youth A major theme running through "The Marriage Group" (which I didn't include in the study guide) and a few other texts we've read (Middlemarch, some of Yeats' poems, Tennyson's Ulysses and Tithonius) is the relationship of old age to youth and the promises that old age can hold, but frequently does not. This is similar to the theme that Shakespeare's sonnets introduce about literature offering immortality, similar to an heir. So one thing we could consider is how literature grasps with mortality.
  • We've been discussing how genre and form can help us elucidate themes more precisely and The Canterbury Tales are an excellent way to consider this. The frame narrative establishes a call and response amongst the pilgrims, the tales requite each other and themselves. In short, our understanding of a particular tale is called into question by evaluating how Chaucer has previously used a genre, or responded to an earlier tale. On the other hand, the polysemeous effect that is created might intentionally be denying the author's position of authority -- in a diverse society, rival versions of how one should live can be possible & Chaucer and his contemporaries are faced with a society that is widening everyday. In the study guide, I've tried to point towards a few of the places where genre and form seem to be worth looking at further. Where else can we push these ideas?

Coming next: The Pardoner's Tale & the Retraction, The Parliament of Fouls. I probably won't make it to Troilus and Criseyde before our Wednesday meeting. Am starting Tristram Shandy and am interested in how Sterne's use of a non-linear narrative might be compared to The Canterbury Tales and also their mutual interest in characterization above narrative so we'll see how that plays out!

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