Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Chaucerian Spaces: Spatial Poetics in Chaucer's Opening Tales

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Chaucerian Spaces: Spatial Poetics in Chaucer's Opening Tales

Article excerpt

William E Woods, Chaucerian Spaces: Spatial Poetics in Chaucer's Opening Tales (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008). xi + 203 pp. ISBN 978-0-7914-7487-7. $60.00.

William E Woods's monograph on Chaucerian spaces is a welcome addition to current scholarly interest in space and place. Woods argues that Chaucer's spatial poetics in The Canterbury Tales has three defining features: the use of horizontal and vertical levels, the juxtaposition of spaces, and the movement from confined to expansive spaces. Woods uses this spatial analysis as a way of investigating Chaucer's narrative techniques and characterization, arguing that 'the emplacement of characters ("where they are") remains critical to our sense of who they are and what they intend' (p. ix). Woods contends that Chaucer uses places such as Emelye's garden, John's house, and Symkyn's mill to construct his character's subjectivity and that the organization of space in The Canterbury Tales is indicative of class, gender, and power relations. In Woods's reading, the mill in the Reeve's Tale becomes a metaphor for Symkyn's desire for economic increase, and the vast spaces which open up during Custance's exile in the Man of Law's Tale demonstrate 'the immense reach of the divine will' (p. 91). Woods's examination of space and gender is especially fruitful in this monograph. He argues that women in the Tales frequently merge with the spaces they inhabit: 'each woman becomes in some way the metaphoric embodiment of the placeworld in her tale, and in her actions, a central symbol of its inherent values' (p. 9). In the Miller's Tale, for example, the spatial settings are concentric, orbiting around John's private house as a locus of desire but with Alysoun at its centre as the private space which the men in the tale desire most of all. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.