Interesting Bits From, New Approaches to Chaucer: Past and Present

As a man whose ears have heard many tales that tell of times past and their connection with the present, I have honestly not heard a single tale that delineates between past and present like, as Carolyn Dinshaw puts it, subtler historicism does.

She says that, “it would delineate the context in which Chaucer was writing, finding the terms in which he expressed concepts of violence, say, and would delineate our contexts and concepts as well; it would then chart the differences and similarities, finding analogies between approaches to violence in Chaucer’s time and our own” (273).

Often, the tales that are spoken in my lodge consist of past events that relate to the present in a way that seems more linear.

“In this case, feminist theory – positing structures of gender – would allow us to see not only analogies between the way the Wife of Bath approaches gender and the way journalists do but continuities in gender approaches between then and now: while we would acknowledge the differences between conditions and expectations for women in Chaucer’s day and in our own, we would trace a continuity of gender structures, in this instance misogyny (273).

I do not hinder the value of the past by wondering what the conditions were in that specific time. Morals are morals, even if the intended moral was not realized by the reader, it is still a moral learned! Dinshaw quotes Jonathan Culler when he says that “meaning is context-bound… but context is boundless,” and again she quotes Strohm, “texts are vauled not only for what they were but also for what they have become; they await retrospective illumination in new contexts.” Stories, books, and texts are always being read or told in the past, our’s sun’s light is eight minutes late when it reaches us! Our present is the past! So why not reference the past to learn of our “present?”


5 thoughts on “Interesting Bits From, New Approaches to Chaucer: Past and Present

  1. Hear hear! I thoroughly enjoyed this article, because it finally gave a window to the past through our shared present. I like the quote she used from a historian saying “it is not only possible, it is imperative to use modern concerns when we confront the past.” I think that that is often forgotten, and we tend to look at historical figures/writers through the lens of “well they were better than the rest in their time.” But I could be wrong… I’m pretty drunk.

  2. I also was thoroughly fascinated by this article! Especially with the connection between the Wife of Bath and feminist culture. It’s no secret Chaucer tends to centralize his ideology of women in a negative light-the wife of bath can attest for that. It makes me wonder if really, anything has changed with how we view feminism from Chaucer’s era to our own.

  3. There was a question to whether I, the Wife of Bath considered Mr. Chaucer a friend or foe. Chaucer depicted me as an opinionated woman who felt woman should should have her own say in choosing her own lover. He spoke about my several husands and my unwillingness to settle with a man who could not satisfy me. I must admit, it is very likely that the readers from Mr. Chaucer’s era may have disapproved of my behavior, for a woman should not possess such strong opinions. Those who read Chaucer’s work now would probably consider me a feminist who is comfortable about her sexuality. I don’t believe Chaucer was advocating for my views, but thankfully some culture have become much more liberal. Connecting modern issues and concerns to Chaucer’s era is what makes his work relevant and relatable to all readers.

  4. One of the scholars that works at my college likes digging in the dirt for things from the past. He always says it’s difficult to psychology on those from long ago. I guess in order to solve the riddle of Chaucer’s view of women we would need to find one of his journals which clearly spell out his beliefs. I wonder: do you think he wrote his personal thoughts in Latin? French? Or did he write his most prized internal struggles in English? Given his storied past with the rape charges, it would be wonderful if we could find just one additional testimony to his experiences in his world! I wonder if we pilgrims should make some small wagers as to when the next big Chaucer discovery will happen? I put all my bets on the month of Aprille…everything starts blossoming then.

  5. Pingback: Kaj je TEORIJA? « Iz njenega dnevnika

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