[Cross-references included at the bottom of the page]
251. BALDWIN, RALPH. The Unity of the Canterbury Tales. Anglistica, no. 5. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1955. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1971, 112 pp. Excerpted in Chaucer Criticism, Volume I: "The Canterbury Tales", ed. by Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960) pp. 14-51.
A seminal study pointing to pilgrimage as the unifying idea and central theme of the Canterbury collection, and concentrating on the rhetoric of the beginning and end of the Canterbury Tales, the only completed portions. The images of springtime and rebirth in the General Prologue announce the pilgrimage and rhetorically emphasize its social and religious implications. Chaucer creates lifelike yet representational pilgrims and establishes a fictional chronology both immediate and timeless. The Parson's Tale, as a sermon on penance, is a fitting conclusion to this multi-valenced journey, the only possible way to achieve the "Celestial City" that Canterbury represents. The Parson's catalog of sins reflects backwards on the sins of the pilgrims and forward to Chaucer's own confession, his Retraction.
252. BRYAN, W.F., and DEMPSTER, GERMAINE, eds. Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941. Reprint. New York: Humanities Press, 1958, 781 pp.
Individual chapters by major scholars present the major sources and analogues of each of the Canterbury tales, the Wife of Bath's and Pardoner's prologues, and the storytelling frame. Prints these sources and analogues in their original languages and marginally keys them to Chaucer's poetry by line number. Where no complete version is known, the composite sources or analogues of Chaucer's work are provided. Individual essays introduce the materials, discussing each tale or section generically and genetically, clarifying Chaucer's originality and his debt to tradition. The primary purpose of the volume is to present the texts for comparative study, yet several of the essays offer substantial criticism, especially Laura Hibbard Loomis's on Sir Thopas. See also Benson and Andersson (entry 308).
253. HOWARD, DONALD R. The Idea of the "Canterbury Tales". Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976, 419 pp.
An important reading of Canterbury Tales as "unfinished but complete" in form (remembered pilgrimage) and structure (accumulation of paired opposites). The General Prologue compels the reader to share a sense of "obsolescence" with the pilgrim narrator whose memory of the pilgrims and their tales provokes us to reconcile oppositions. Like remembering, reading Canterbury Tales leads us to understand our attitudes in terms of the varied points of view. Close reading identifies the characters of the pilgrims, the structure of opposition among the tales, and their "unimpersonated" artistry, i.e., the qualities attributable to the poet rather than the characters. Historical background provides useful information about medieval memory theory, interlaced narrative structure, and visual models for the work such as rose windows and pavement labyrinths.
254. LAWRENCE, WILLIAM WITHERLE. Chaucer and the "Canterbury Tales". New York: Columbia University Press, 1950, 193 pp.
Addresses many of the issues that result from approaching Canterbury Tales as a dramatic pilgrimage, attempting to employ "appreciative and historical criticism" to explain these issues to a non-specialist audience. Emphasizes the verisimilitude of the pilgrimage, while denying that it reflects an actual journey. Assesses the place and importance of the fabliaux as experiments in realism. Discusses the problem of the order of the tales, preferring the Chaucer Society order, and relates these problems to the drama of the pilgrimage, especially as represented by the Marriage Group, Chaucer's changing plans for the number of tales, and the pious conclusion reflected in Parson's Tale and Retraction.
255. LUMIANSKY, R.M. Of Sondry Folk: The Dramatic Principle in the "Canterbury Tales". Austin: University of Texas Press, 1955. Reprinted with additional bibliography, 1980, 297 pp.
Presents the Canterbury Tales as an ongoing drama among the pilgrims, considering General Prologue, the tales, and especially the links among the tales as scenes or acts. Follows the Chaucer Society order of the tales, characterizing the pilgrims and identifying their motives for telling their tales: conflicting ideals, professional antagonism, and one-upsmanship. The Host figures prominently as an actor, notable for his provocative tongue and questionable acumen. The tales suit the tellers in varying degrees since "upon occasion Chaucer sacrifices absolute literary criteria in favor of dramatic decorum."
256. McGRADY, DONALD. "Chaucer and the Decameron Reconsidered." Chaucer Review 12 (1977):1-26.
Challenges the traditional opinion that Boccaccio's Decameron had no influence on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, critiquing previous discussions and marshalling parallels between Chaucer's and Boccaccio's tales, especially between Miller's Tale and several tales of Decameron.
257. MANLY, JOHN M[ATTHEWS]. Some New Light on Chaucer. Lectures Delivered at the Lowell Institute. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1926. Reprint. New York: Peter Smith, 1952, 315 pp.
Attempts to identify real-life models for Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims, comparing the details in the General Prologue and tales with historical documents. Admittedly speculative, the discussions focus on historical individuals as models for the Host, the Reeve, and the Man of Law. If no individual can be so identified, other examinations collect typical records appropriate to a given pilgrim or tale, documenting St. Michael's near Bath, for example, and alchemists at the court of Richard. These discussions provide social context for Canterbury Tales.
258. RUGGIERS, PAUL G. The Art of the "Canterbury Tales". Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965, 253 pp.
Explores the form of Canterbury Tales, especially the range of the "great middle" of the pilgrimage. Defines the "ironic detachment" of the narrator and his engagement only in matters critical and prudential. Correlates this role, reflected in Retraction, with the poet's genuine Christian endeavor to both represent and appraise the world poetically. Analyzes individual tales under the broad headings of romance and comedy, describing how they depict aspects of the human condition, and how they combine various literary forms. As parts of a greater whole, the tales suggest more within the frame that they can in isolation, reflecting not only the individuality and variety of their tellers, but also their typicality. Includes analysis of all tales except those of the Physician, Monk, Manciple, and Parson, but discusses the importance of the Parson's theme of penance to the work as a whole.
259. TAYLOR, P.B. "Chaucer's Cosyn to the Dede." Speculum 57 (1982):315-27.
Explores the relations among words, intents, and deeds in Canterbury Tales, explaining contemporary realistic and nominalistic theories of language and the double tradition of Platonic linguistic theory. Argues that Chaucer's apologies for rude language reveal his complex attitude towards language, and that he privileges the Parson's linguistic realism over the Pardoner's nominalism.
260. TRAVERSI, DEREK. The "Canterbury Tales": A Reading. Newark, N.J.: University of Delaware Press, 1983, 251 pp.
Examines the unifinished Canterbury Tales as it stands between the "twin pillars" of the narrative: the departure from the Tabard Inn and the arrival at "thropes ende." Three major themes control the poem: contrasting loves in Fragment I, the marriage argument, and a somewhat less coherent notion from Pardoner's tale to Nun's Priest's concerned with the nature and function of art. All three concerns interact with the dominant pilgrimage motif to communicate the richness of art and experience and their final spiritual insufficiency. Most valuable for insights into nine tales: Knight, Miller, Reeve, Wife of Bath, Clerk, Merchant, Pardoner, Nun's Priest, and Canon's Yeoman.
261. WHITTOCK, TREVOR. A Reading of the "Canterbury Tales". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968, 315 pp.
Interpretive, tale-by-tale reading of Canterbury Tales, emphasizing the variety of world views represented in the work and noting how the recurrence of certain themes sustains a moral focus. Follows the Ellesmere order of the tales and argues for unity based on diversity, i.e., argues that Chaucer's "mixed styles and tones" reflect his range and acceptence of diversity. Through genre and style, individual tales characterize their tellers and "depict the world as these people see and understand it." Through juxtaposition, diversity, and the recurrence of theme, Chaucer makes evident the comic and moral limitations of any one point of view.
See also entries 2-3, 5, 7-9, 29-31, 33-35, 221, 284, 300-01.
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