Gender and Language in Chaucer

Gender and Language in Chaucer

Gender and Language in Chaucer

Gender and Language in Chaucer


"Builds expertly and significantly on several earlier feminist analyses of Chaucer's works.... An important addition to the growing body of work devoted to Chaucer and gender.... One of the real strengths of this work is the way in which it ties medieval notions of gender both to ancient, Aristotelian views and to modem and postmodern feminist theories". -- Laura Howes, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

"A seminal critical text in Chaucer and medieval studies.... Thoroughly enjoyable". Liam Purdon, Doane College, Crete, Nebraska

Catherine S. Cox considers the significance of gender in relation to language and poetics in Chaucer's writing. Examining selections from The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, The Legend of Good Women, and the ballades, she explores Chaucer's concern with gender and language both within the context of fourteenth-century culture and in light of contemporary feminist and post-structuralist theory.

Cox argues that Chaucer's attention to gender and language exposes the contradictory notions of woman in medieval culture. Further, resisting the imposition of modern, reductive theoretical concerns on medieval authors, Cox makes a compelling case for a Chaucer who both confirms and challenges the orthodoxy of his day, thereby countering recent arguments that insist upon a wholly feminist or wholly patriarchal Chaucer.

Informed by a broad range of traditional literary and historical scholarship (including Aristotelian philosophy, medieval Latin culture, and the writings of the Church fathers) as well as by recent psychoanalytical debates related to post- modern feminist critical theory (including those of Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and feminist filmtheorists), Cox's study demonstrates the significant interplay among ancient, medieval, and modern issues of scholarship and learning.


This study considers the significance of gender construction in Chaucer's work. My intention is to demonstrate the complex and ambivalent relation of Chaucerian texts to orthodox codes of gender, and to this end I consider the texts both within their cultural contexts (theology, epistemology, poetics) and in light of contemporary feminist and poststructuralist theories. It is my hope in writing this study that readers will find it informative and provocative, perhaps an impetus for their own pursuits. the book's intended audience, therefore, includes not only veteran Chaucerians but also scholars, teachers, and students interested in medieval literature and culture, feminist critical theory, and gender studies.

My work has benefited from the advice, criticism, and enthusiasm of a number of readers and colleagues whom I am pleased to acknowledge. I would like to thank in particular R. A. Shoaf, whose guidance has been invaluable. Special thanks go to Karen S. Robinson and Michael W. Cox. My thanks also to Ira Clark, Dan Cottom, Jack Perlette, Carol Lansing, Marie Nelson, John Taggart, Judy Shoaf, Bonnie Baker, Chauncey Wood, and the late Richard Hamilton Green; to the anonymous readers for Exemplaria, South Atlantic Review, and the University Press of Florida; and to Walda Metcalf, acquisitions editor for the press. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to present portions of my work at a number of conferences, including the 1993 and 1995 South Atlantic Modern Language Association, the 1994 Northeast Modern Language Association, the 1993 Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, and the 1993 Citadel Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Local debts of fact and scholarship have been acknowledged in the notes, but, as a medievalist working in gender studies, I wish to acknowledge here a general indebtedness to Carolyn Dinshaw's groundbreaking work. Finally, I would like to thank the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for a Faculty Scholarship Grant awarded to me in 1994 and for the opportunity to teach Chaucer to interested and enthusiastic students--students Aimee Bouch, Shannon Kelly . . .

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