POETIC SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS & NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE  

[Cross-references included at the bottom of the page]

 

152. BOITANI, PIERO. La narrativa del medioevo Inglese. Bari: Adriatica, 1980. Translated by Joan Krakover Hall. English Medieval Narrative in the 13th and 14th Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 318 pp.

Discusses Chaucer's works as the culmination of the English medieval narrative tradition, examining the growing literary self-consciousness of pre-Chaucerian works and demonstrating the function of self-consciousness in Chaucer's corpus. Part I summarizes and describes various narrative forms--homily, romance, dream vision, and narrative collection--tracing a complex pattern of growth from oral, hortatory works to literary, intellectual ones. In Part II, discussion of Chaucer's dream visions, Troilus and Criseyde, and Canterbury Tales (in particular Pardoner's Tale and Nun's Priest's Tale) establish that Chaucer wrote to be read (rather than heard) and often wrote about reading. He modified tradition and reflected contemporary Italian self-consciousness, producing works uniquely literate.

153. BREWER, DEREK [S]. "Towards a Chaucerian Poetic." Proceedings of the British Academy 60 (1974):219-52. Printed separately. London: Oxford University Press, 1974. Reprinted in Chaucer: The Poet as Storyteller, (London: Macmillan Press), 1984, pp. 54-79.

Examines the ways in which Chaucer's narratives "mean"--the ways they compel an audience to make a "complex interrelated structure in the imagination." Assesses Chaucer's uses of allegory, fantasy, truth-claims, rhetoric, and neoclassical precision, and concentrates on the ways conventional structures create intelligibility and coherence.

154. BURLIN, ROBERT B. Chaucerian Fiction. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977, 302 pp.

Considers Chaucer's major works against a background of contemporary epistemology, and studies the role or roles of his narrators, tracing a logical (not chronological) development in his exploration of what can be known through poetry and how it can be known. Chaucer's "Poetic Fictions" (Legend of Good Women, House of Fame, Book of the Duchess) speculate on "the poet's relation to his audience" and the epistemological value of poetry. His "Philosophic Fictions" (Parliament of Fowls, Knight's Tale, Troilus and Criseyde, Clerk's Tale) foreground the narrative process in some way, exploring the limits of poetry's philosophical range. His "Psychological Fictions" (select Canterbury tales) examine through a variety of narrators the "unspoken motives for telling a tale as well as the teller's pronounced intention."

155. DAVID, ALFRED. The Strumpet Muse: Art and Morals in Chaucer's Poetry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976, 280 pp.

Traces the development of Chaucer's idea of the value of poetry, describing his early works as his attempts to be an ideal conventional poet, observing his increasingly self-conscious dexterity with the art of illusion in Troilus and Criseyde and Legend of Good Women, and analyzing his distrust of poetry's "potential for expressing moral truths" evident in Canterbury Tales. Explores the ambivalent opposition between Chaucer's desire to be a didactic poet and his emotional commitment to human vitality, reading his works as poems about poetry or reflections of personal struggle with the poet's role. Early chapters survey the growth of this ambivalence, while the bulk of the work assesses the "ironic images of the poet embodied in the various tellers of the Canterbury tales," especially the Miller, the Man of Law, the Wife of Bath, and the Prioress.

156. DIEKSTRA, F. "Chaucer's Way with His Sources: Accident into Substance and Substance into Accident." English Studies 62 (1981):215-36.

Discusses the ways Chaucer modifies traditional materials to produce his original effects: his welding of disparate traditions, his manipulation of genre conventions, and his juxtaposing idealism and realism.

157. FICHTE, JOERG O. Chaucer's "Art Poetical": A Study of Chaucerian Poetics. Studies and Texts in English, no. 1. Tubingen: Narr, 1980, 137 pp.

Describes a Chaucerian poetics by examining the thematic interaction of courtly love, morality, order, and poetry in several Chaucerian narratives, observing among them a chronological development from his "limited awareness of the power of poetry to the recognition that the poetic art equals the paradigmatic act of creation in a world characterized by confusion." Since grief overwhelms love, the only "positive resolution" of Book of the Duchess is the consolation the narrator receives from writing the poem (compare Robinson, entry 133). Similarly, poetry partially orders the destabiliizing effects of love in Parliament of Fowls. In House of Fame, Chaucer subordinates morality to poetic exploration and challenges authority. His artistic ordering imposes control on "dissonant thematic material in Knight's Tale which, in the context of Canterbury Tales, is one of the many investigations of poetry as sub-creation and a partial solution to the disorder of life.

158. FRANCIS, W. NELSON. "Chaucer Shortens a Tale." PMLA 68 (1953):1126-41.

Surveys Chaucer's narrative "self-conscious abbreviation"--his techniques for signalling omitted details, accelerated pace, summarizing, and shortening. Attributes such abbreviation to three causes: lengthy source material, Chaucer's recognition of his "tendency to prolixity," and most significantly, his ability to maintain audience attention and create humor in ways derivative from oral delivery.

159. JORDAN, ROBERT M. Chaucer and the Shape of Creation: The Aesthetic Possibilities of Inorganic Structure. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967, 264 pp.

Defines the inorganic, associative system of medieval aesthetics, grounded in Pythagorean number theory and Platonic ideas of rational order, and carried into the Middle Ages by Augustine, Boethius, and Macrobius. Analogous to the rigorously structured and clearly divisible Ptolemaic finite universe, this aesthetic system is evident in Gothic architecture and Dante's Commedia as well as Chaucer's major works. Troilus and Criseyde is best understood in terms of a hierarchy of perspectives wherein narrative intrusions clearly separate the work into discrete accumulative parts. Troilus, Pandarus, the narrator, and finally the poet in the Epilogue offer distinct perspectives on love. Structurally, Canterbury Tales is better understood as an additive collocation than as a unified, realistic drama. Dramatic unity is a modern concern. The tales offer a medieval structure of prefabricated units in a controlled outline, as indicated by discussion of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and the tales of the Merchant, Knight. Miller, Clerk, and Parson indicate.

160. RENOIR, ALAIN. "Tradition and Moral Realism: Chaucer's Conception of the Poet." Studia Neophilologica 35 (1963):199-210.

Discusses Chaucer's Retraction and his comments about his own poetry, resolving apparent inconsistencies and concluding that Chaucer conceived of the poet as a "moral realist," familiar with rhetorical tradition but sensitive enough to his own age to record history and convey morality.

161. SCHAAR, CLAES. Some Types of Narrative in Chaucer's Poetry. Lund Studies in English, no. 25. Lund: Gleerup; Copenhagen: Ejnar Munkgaard, 1954, 193 pp.

A theoretical exploration of narrative technique in Chaucer's poetry and its tradition, attempting to describe Chaucer's dependencies and innovations. Defines three kinds of narrative, their syntactic and stylistic characters, and their occurences in the classical and medieval works known to Chaucer. Chaucer's "summary narrative" with its corollary "contrasting summary," is his most innovative technique, his means to appropriate sources succinctly and create associative echoes. He uses "close chronology" in his later, realistic tales and puts it to unusual "preparatory" use in his early poems. The more digressive "loose chronological narrative" is rare in Chaucer's poetry, indicating his economy and talent for drama. Chaucer achieves his most striking effects by juxtaposing rambling and condensed styles.

162. SKLUTE, LARRY. Virtue of Necessity: Inconclusiveness and Narrative Form in Chaucer's Poetry. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1984, 167 pp.

Addresses the "inconclusive form" of Chaucer's major poetry, i.e., incompleteness, failure to answer questions raised, or offering of obviously partial answers. Spreading, associative form typifies Chaucer's early dream visions, leading the reader to conceptual inconclusiveness which matches the discomfiture of the personas. The narrator's personal involvement in Troilus and Criseyde qualifies the historicity of the story, raising unanswered questions about the subjectivity of any narrated action. Legend of Good Women combines vision and history, freeing Chaucer from authority and enabling him to capitalize upon extreme subjectivity. Unlike his other works, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is intentionally inconclusive; it exploits various subjective narrators in order to express an essentially pluralistic view of reality, a view with precedent in late-medieval epistemology.

See also entries 3, 8, 10, 47. For poetic self-consciousness: 84, 144, 192, 277A, 300, 303, 702, 812, 826, 867-68, 890-91, 894, 900; narrative technique: 93, 294, 725, 728, 806-07, 824, 855, 883.

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