Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare

By Lisa Lampert | Go to book overview

3
Reprioritizing the Prioress’s Tale

THROUGH RESEARCH RANGING FROM STUDIES of individual works and characters to examinations of questions of authorship and the nature of poetic meaning, recent feminist scholarship has shown the centrality of issues of gender to the Chaucerian corpus.1 In contrast, studies of Jewish difference, although they have flourished of late, have tended to focus narrowly on a single piece of Chaucer’s writing, the Prioress’s Tale.2 Some critics have examined the intersectionality of gender and Jewish difference within this tale, but these studies have tended to remain bounded by its ghetto, leaving relatively unexamined the importance of Jews and Judaism outside its gates. This chapter attempts to encourage a new way of seeing the Jew in Chaucer’s writings, one that looks beyond demonizing representations such as those found in the Prioress’s Tale to examine how representations of Jews and Judaism inform some important sequences in the Canterbury Tales as a whole. The “Jewish question” is clearly not a Chaucerian preoccupation of the same order as that of “the Woman question,” but, I would argue, within the Tales, the hermeneutical Jew is implicated in the broader engagement of the Tales with questions of meaning, understanding, and authority, as well as with the issue of gender itself.

This is not to say that the questions of anti-Semitism that have so long preoccupied critics of the Prioress’s Tale should now be ignored; L. O. Aranye Fradenburg’s important 1989 essay definitively established the importance of these issues to Chaucer scholarship. Furthermore, one need only type “ritual murder” or “Simon of Trent” into any internet search engine to see the power that these anti-Semitic myths seem to hold for some even today. Nevertheless, representations of Jews and Judaism now also need to be addressed in contexts beyond moments of traumatic representation.3 As we have seen, the hermeneutical Jew is firmly woven into the pattern of Christian hermeneutics.4 The critical relationship that Christianity posits between the Old and New Testaments comes into play either

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Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Introduction- Made, Not Born 1
  • 2 - The Hermeneutics of Difference 21
  • 3 - Reprioritizing the Prioress’s Tale 58
  • 4 - Creating the Christian in Late Medieval East Anglian Drama 101
  • 5 - "O What a Goodly outside Falsehood Hath!" Exegesis and Identity in the Merchant of Venice 138
  • Conclusion 168
  • Abbreviations 173
  • Notes 175
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 265
  • Acknowledgments 275
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