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Lecture

General Prologue+more in canterbury tales .docx

5 Pages
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Department
English (Arts)
Course Code
ENGL 202
Professor
Ken Borris

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General Prologue, The Canterbury Tales I. The Prologue’s Framework for The Canterbury Tales –introduces the various speakers of the tales: the main characters, who happen to meet at the Tabard Inn as pilgrims on their way to Canterbury –the innkeeper, “the Host,” devises the tale-telling scheme as entertainment for the journey –the best story-teller is to win a dinner at the inn after the journey –each pilgrim is to tell 2 tales going to Canterbury, 2 coming back, totalling about 120 stories –only 22 are complete, with 2 more in fragments –the criteria of judging the tales: “Tales of best sentence and most solas” (ll. 798- 801) –medieval and early modern literary esthetics II. Chaucer’s Narrative Technique in The General Prologue and Canterbury Tales –how many stand-ins for Chaucer as narrator–i.e., narrative voices–are there in the General Prologue and thus the Tales as a whole? –which two are most essential to the framework of the Tales, and thus central? –The Canterbury Tales as narrative tour de force: the structure enables inclusion of a great variety of narrative styles, genres, and projected voices –the main narrator (the Chaucerian “I”) a) what is he like in character? b) what are the extent of his claims for himself and his abilities? (e.g., ll. 727-48) c) his “Socratic” pose, pervasive irony d) appearance/reality; probing society –how does the additional Chaucerian projection of the Host or innkeeper affect the general atmosphere of the text? What is he like in character? III. Satire in The General Prologue and Canterbury Tales –standards of judgment in satiric texts: representation of the satiric “moral norm” –which characters in Chaucer’s General Prologue may best be said to focus such a norm? –ecclesiastical satire–i.e., satire of the Church–in The Canterbury Tales s–Chaucer’s satire of secular society IV. Chaucer’s Irony and Satire in Practice: Examples in The General Prologue –the Prioress, ll. 118ff –the Friar, ll. 208ff. –the Franklin, ll. 333ff –the Wife of Bath, ll. 457ff –the Parson: modelled on the parable of the good shepherd in the Gospel of John –the Summoner, ll. 625ff Lines 447 and following-> She knew much about wandering (moral wandering indulgence) There is a detail mentioned by the narrator, about her deafness (that’s all he knows about her, he’s not an omniscient) She’s deaf in one ear because her husband struck her -> domestic violence. That radically changes our view of her and what the narrator says about her We cannot necessarily accept all the narrator says about the characters, irony The Miller’s Prologue and Tale 1. Functions of this Prologue, and of the Various Tales’Prologues –provides transition between tales, in this case the Miller’s and the Knight’s –introduces and defines their striking contrast –provides scope for dramatic interaction between the pilgrims, thus enhancing their characterization, and hence also the frame narrative of the Tales as a whole –provides scope for the Chaucerian “I,” the general narrator, to comment (as he cannot so readily within a tale as it is being told by one of the pilgrims) 2. The Miller’s Tale –literary genre: the “fabliau” –the fundamental comic contrast betweenAlisoun’s suitors –Carpenter/Nicolas: superstition, awe, credulity vs. learned cunning –farcical consequences vs. “blessed be alway a lewed man / That nought but only his bileve can” –relation to carnivalesque culture, in Mikhail Bakhtin’s sense Carnivalesque Culture: The Middle Ages and Renaissance On this aspect of Chaucer, see Jon Cooke’s essay in David Aers, ed., Medieval Literature. 1. Basic Definition of “Carnival” in This Sense –Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept, developed in Rabelais and His World –his definition: “the world inside out” reorganized according to laughter –a pattern of play opposing officialdom, seriousness, ideals, authority, dogma, narrowness –carnival thus comprises, e.g., ritual spectacles, pageants, comic shows in marketplaces, fairs, comic verbal compositions, some forms of popular speech –celebrates temporary liberation from prevailing “truth” and established order, including social rank and status, etiquette, norms of “decency” –celebrates becoming, change, renewal –conduces expression in playful, undefined forms in flux 2. The Carnivalesque Body or “Material Bodily Principle” (Bakhtin) –earthy, material, and positive as such –“grotesque realism” in Bakhtin’s phrase
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