Jenifer Sutherland

March 6

March 13

March 20

March 27




March 6

Pasolini's "The Creation of Eve" The Pardoner’s Introduction, Prologue, and Tale:

by Scott Tavener

In the beginning: people handed essays in, and looked tired but smoking-a-cigarette-satisfied. Here is what followed:

Sources for the Pardoner

The character of the Pardoner comes from two sources:
(1) A character named Faux Samblant in The Romance of the
(2) The Real life Pardoners of the day

In The Romance of the Rose, the character known as Faux Samblant (or, "false seeming"), says one thing yet means another. He speaks allegorically.
[A note on allegory: allegory comes from Greek, and literally means "other speak". During public speeches, quite common in ancient Greece, politicians would say one thing, yet mean another. They would speak ALLEGORICALLY].
Faux’s name identifies his character. Basically, he does not tell the truth. Though the nature of the Pardoner’s character is not revealed in such an overt and obvious manner he, like Faux Samblant, often says that which he does not mean.

Also, like the Pardoner, Faux Samblant does not belong specifically to either sex. He "wear[s] the robes of priest, king, nun, or lady".
The pardoners of Chaucer’s time also provided inspiration for the Pardoner. Pardoners were minor church officials, very often clerics, who belonged to various orders. They would go through ecclesiastical training and usually, though not always, take a vow of celibacy.

Religion of the day was a business and therefore, had to do largely with economic pursuit. Parishioners would pay the church 1/10 of their income (i.e. tives). Furthermore, friars had what was called a building fund. Questors and pardoners would pay the church in order to rent an area of it. To cover this cost, pardoners had to sell things. In effect, they became salesmen. Their goods came in the form of indulgences and relics. Pardoners bought indulgences (official documents that guaranteed absolution) from Rome, and sold these.

Also, they would sell relics, which were physical remainders from saints. These came in the form of blessed objects, or they could actually be pieces of the saint himself (i.e. St. Aquinas carried with him the thumb of St. Agnes). Relics took on great importance, because people believed that they could provide protection.
In the centuries prior to Chaucer’s time, objects became increasingly significant. During his reign, Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (771-814 A.D.) began using objects, rather than legal documentation, to swear oaths. Also, reliquaries, museums containing numerous holy relics, began appearing. Relics became great tourist / pilgrimage locations. So, relics had a direct relationship with money ($$$). The selling of relics and indulgences, even in Chaucer’s time, was a topic of much moral scrutiny and debate. Therefore, Chaucer’s readers would have had apprehensions about the Pardoner immediately.

Chaucer and the Unreliable Teller
Chaucer introduces the Pardoner last in "The General Prologue", and then proceeds to describe his own method of story-telling. He claims that he remains absolutely faithful to the words of the pilgrims. He reports them verbatim, yet this does not mean that the tellers tell the truth (see lines 724-45 of "The General Prologue"). Since this information directly follows the introduction of the Pardoner, the reader must use extra caution when listening to his tale. The honesty, or lack thereof, of all tellers must be considered when evaluating the tales.

[An interesting fact about truth in literature: In Victorian novels, language was thought to represent the truth, the way things were. In the Middle Ages however, they were not so naïve]

The 4th Lateran Council, in 1215, made annual confession mandatory. This entailed three things:
(1) Contrition
(2) Confession (to one’s parish priest)
(3) Satisfaction (i.e. pilgrimage, prayer, give money to the church, buy indulgence)

The Pardoner had to do with the third condition. Eager for absolution, people would buy indulgences from the Pardoner. Being as those in Chaucer’s Tales are PILGRIMS, it stands to reason that they are largely concerned with absolution. As a savvy, and somewhat of an opportunist, the Pardoner knows that his traveling companions make for willing indulgence customers.

The Pardoner’s Androgyny

Like Faux Samblant, the Pardoner’s sex cannot be absolutely pinpointed. What with his falsetto voice, lack of a beard, and the implication that he may have been castrated, the Pardoner takes on an androgynous nature. Furthermore, his relics are fetish relics and, as such, stand as compensation for his lack of sexuality. This is further complicated by references to sexual innuendos concerning "wenches". Thus, the traits of the Pardoner (i.e. avarice, hypocrisy), can belong to anyone, man or woman.

The Dichotomous Character of the Pardoner
The Pardoner is a fraud. His so-called relics, he readily admits, are not saint’s bones, but rather pig’s bones. However, through his admittance of being a liar he, ironically, acts honestly. Furthermore, in The Pardoner’s Prologue he tells his audience that he preaches, not to teach, but to acquire wealth. He explains how he tricks people into buying his wares (telling them that these objects will do nothing if a sinner tries to use them, so everyone has to buy them to exonerate themselves). Telling the pilgrims all this to gain credibility, he later tries to sell his bogus goods to them. How funny is that? SO funny. Furthermore, like a preacher, the Pardoner frequently resorts to the use of rhetoric. This should cause the hearer to beware, for language is always a dangerous and tricky thing. Especially the use of "high speech", or Radix malorum est caniditas, should be approached with caution. This goes for Chaucer as well, do not let him trick you with that high-style of language!

[A note on rhetoric: Along with grammar and logic, rhetoric (the art of persuasion) belongs to the trivium of learning. There is also a quadrivium, which includes astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, and music (yes, music, because music has to do largely with mathematics. These classes come from ancient Greece]

Ironically, the Pardoner’s sermons discuss gluttony, drinking, gambling and swearing, yet he himself hypocritically takes part in all these vices. He lies, but he admits he is lying. He is honest about falsehood. Therefore, this calls into question the idea of truth. With dishonesty a recurring and overt theme, both the pilgrims and the reader cannot easily accept the words of the story tellers. Through the Pardoner’s obvious lies, the reader must realize that, though Chaucer may remain a reliable reporter, the truth value of the tales varies.

The Tale Itself
The tale takes place in Flanders (France), since it is best to situate all stories of immorality away from the homeland. Coming from the Pardoner, the tale takes on a sermon-like style. He prefaces it with a repeated biblical allusion (i.e. references to Sampson). Also, he says that he shall castigate vice, in the form of drunkenness, gambling, and swearing (ironically, the Pardoner is guilty of all of these). The story also reminds one of the biblical story of Lot (drunkenness = bad). The tale draws on, among others, a Buddhist story from the 3rd century B.C. in which there are three dead and three living. The latter are the witnesses (in this story, the boy, the Taverner, and the old man). The contrast between the living and the dead is a momento mori or reminder of death. This serves the Pardoner in that it keeps the audience cognizant of the fact that they will die and, in turn, need absolution (they should buy indulgences).
Motherhood is a common theme of the story. All three witnesses discuss mothers (whether it be a literal, earthly, or religious maternal entity), thus strengthening the emphasis put on a birth-death relationship. In turn, the pilgrim hearing the story must remember his or her need for absolution. Even the Pardoner’s tale is a sales pitch.

Toward the end of his tale, the Pardoner goes off on a rant, sermon like, about luxury (i.e. lechery) and gluttony. He then goes from this vilification of sin to an apostrophe on mankind. Following this tirade, and with his audience in a state of excitement, he makes his sales pitch. The entire tale (nee sermon) has culminated in an attempt to sell his goods. Here, for the first time, the host steps in and silences the pardoner. The order of the pilgrimage is falling apart, but the knight brings it back together (he is a natural choice to do this, for he symbolizes order).

The Pardoner is the first character that exists outside the fellowship of the pilgrims in that he does not go on the journey to obtain absolution, but instead for financial gain (although, the Host is also along for fiscal reward). This calls into question the validity of the pilgrimage. Also, by creating an argument with Harry Bailey (the host), he damages the tranquility of the voyage, and nearly derails it.


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March 13

by Liz Balogh

Professor Sutherland began the class by providing an exam outline. She will email the details to us soon.

From there, we discussed Chaucer’s role within The Canterbury Tales by looking at instances where attention is drawn to Chaucer’s presence. His first appearance is in the General Prologue. How is Chaucer set up as a participant within the pilgrimage group? What is his function? Students listed various possibilities: he is a poet (however in the Middle Ages, there were not full-time writers); he is a civil servant; he is a scribe/editor. Chaucer, however, does not enter the group with a journalistic intention: "Redy to wenden on my pilgymage/ To Caunterbury with ful devout corage"(Gen Prol. 21-2). He is just as much a pilgrim as any of the characters. He is a participant within the story-telling structure; however, he also bears the additional role of an observer. Insofar as he is a witness and transcriber of the events of the journey, he is aligned with the Host who ultimately structures the nature of the storytelling challenge.

We next see Chaucer in the Miller’s Prologue (lines 3167-86) where Chaucer gives a disclaimer regarding the truth value of the various tales. He distances himself from the genre, idiom, and the language itself by claiming that these elements are not within his power "for [he] moot reherce/ Hir tales alle, be they better or werse"(Miller’s Prol. 3173-4). Our next encounter with Chaucer is in the Reeve’s Prologue. The Prologues, as we have seen, have been moments where the characters respond to the tales – dramatic interludes. Here, Chaucer becomes a dramaturge. He sets up the characters to provoke them to interact. Thus far, Chaucer can be viewed as: 1) Participant/Pilgrim 2) Reporter 3) Dramatist. His fourth main role comes in the Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale. This Introduction returns our attention to the concrete details of the pilgrimage and, in particular, the sense of urgency of the Host. Here, like the Host, Chaucer’s role is to keep the narrative on schedule and make it interesting to the reader.

Two of today’s texts, Sir Thopas and The Tale of Melibee, are told explicitly by Chaucer. Sir Thopas follows The Prioress’ Tale. As Professor Sutherland previously mentioned, a central theme in The Prioress’ Tale is inexpressibility: the limits of language as human language meets the divine. Latin, in the Middle Ages, was considered a boundary language because of its privileged status within the Roman Catholic Church. As such, it was seen as closer to God than the vernacular language. This context is important to understanding Chaucer’s two tales. Professor Sutherland then outlined the concept of "univocity" wherein one word denotes one meaning. She suggested that univocity depends on a community of people who define and limit their terms very specifically.

In the Prologue to Sir Thopas, we see the Host once again setting the storytelling back on track. The pilgrims are silenced by the holiness of the Prioress’ story. In order to break this spell, the Host draws attention to Chaucer, who of all the pilgrims seems to be the least sociable. As Chaucer is not given a portrait within the General Prologue, we looked closely at the details of his appearance and the nature of his character in this passage. Professor Sutherland pointed out that none of the other male characters are described as "a popet", or "elvyssh". In this way, Chaucer is set apart as one who is not quite human. The class then broke off into groups to discuss the peculiar elements of this tale, particularly in terms of the romance genre. Professor Sutherland read examples of openings from popular romances of this time. These romances generally implement tail rhyme. Tail rhyme consists of 12 lines where lines 3, 6, 9 and 12 share the same rhyme. Sometimes an extra phrase is inserted which is referred to as a bob. Chaucer, in contrast, uses rhyming couplets with a dominant metre of iambic pentameter. Some of the problems our classmates suggested were as follows: the attention drawn to the monetary value of the knight’s clothing; the banality of his Flanders origin; the scene where the horse is tormented because of Sir Thopas’ frustrated desire; the initial line of the 3rd Fit, "Now holde youre mouth," and its inappropriateness as an address to a noble audience; the ending of the 2nd Fit; Chaucer’s uncommon use of conventional diction; and the tale’s overall lack of focus. Professor Sutherland suggested that the tale represents the opposite end of inexpressibility. Here, there is nothing to express, and yet language continues on.

Before Chaucer can finish his "rym," the Host interrupts him. Chaucer, then, makes another disclaimer drawing on Biblical precedent. He states that while there are discrepancies between the different gospels, "hir sentence is al sooth"(Sir Thopas 946). In contrast to his earlier position regarding the importance of using the exact words of the pilgrim narrators, Chaucer here suggests that univocity in meaning is possible using paraphrase. Why, then, does he change his stance regarding The Tale of Melibee? One student suggested that as a tale of virtue it is linked to divine texts. Chaucer can then be seen as making a claim for vernacular language and its ability to convey moral and religious truths. The Tale of Melibee is a Christian allegory. Melibee and his wife, Prudence, debate over vengeance and what should be done after their daughter Sophie (Greek for Wisdom) has been wounded. Melibee draws together a group of counselors who advise that he should go to war. Prudence counters this position. She discusses the many different causes behind this act of violence, including God, and how in his response, Melibee must respond to each cause. In a Boethian shift, Melibee sees the way that his daughter’s wounds are connected to his own sins. He realizes that his reputation is at stake with this decision. He needs to work with the community in order for it to understand that the action he takes is based on good intent. Together with his counselors, the three enemies, Melibee and Prudence meet at Court. When the parties are brought together, Prudence and Melibee recognize that the enemies are contrite. The tale ends with an acknowledgment of God’s power. A classmate suggested that this tale acts as a parallel to Boethius’ Consolation. In both tales, the central characters are called on to transcend the realm of the flesh and earthly fortune and turn their minds and souls towards higher concerns.

After the break, Marianne did a seminar on Friars in the Middle Ages (see below). We then looked at The Friar’s Tale. The Prologue begins with an exchange between the Friar and the Summoner who are in conflict with one another in their goal of monetary gain. The Friar’s story paints a black picture of this Summoner. In the tale, the Summoner meets a man who reveals that he is the devil after they have sworn brotherhood. The devil, like the Summoner, collects goods from people, but only what he is allowed to collect. At line 1535, they encounter a man with a horse and cart who in anger calls on the devil to take his horse. While the Summoner interprets the man’s words literally, the devil states that there is a disjuncture between the words and the man’s intention. Attention is again draw to the way language works in the final scene. When the Summoner arrives at his destination, the house of an old widow, he attempts to swindle her out of money. She, in turn, calls on the devil to fetch the Summoner. When the devil asks if this is her true intent, she agrees and the devil collects what is his due, the Summoner’s body. The Pilgrimage Summoner is infuriated by this tale and offers a prequel to his own tale outlining the lowly position of friars in hell.

The Summoner counters this tale with a depiction of a corrupt friar who predominantly preaches about trentals, expensive services offered as penance for souls in Purgatory. This Friar arrives at the house of a sick man named Thomas. Here, the Friar reveals his hypocrisy to the reader. He moralizes regarding the evils of gluttony after putting in a dinner order to Thomas’ wife. When Thomas’s wife complains to the Friar about her husband’s anger, the Friar preaches that "Ire is a synne, oon of the grete of sevene,/ Abhomynable unto the God of hevene"(Sum. Tale 2004-5). (This is ironic given that the Summoner and the Friar in the Prologue have just made open displays of anger.) The Friar, as always seeking a donation, offers to serve as confessor to Thomas. Thomas suggests a compromise. He has an offering, but will only give it if it is divided between the "covent"(a group of 12 friars and one leader). The Friar agrees. Upon Thomas’ request, he reaches down beneath Thomas’ buttocks and Thomas farts. The Friar departs in anger and goes to a local worthy man’s house. This man is intrigued by the problem of how to break a fart into equal parts smell and sound. Professor Sutherland reminded us of the scholastics’ love of splitting hairs, i.e. making distinctions. The man’s squire suggests a resolution to this question: when the air is still, they should place a 12-spoked cartwheel behind Thomas’ rear end. Each of the 12 friars will be placed at the end of a spoke with the Friar taking a special position directly in front of the cartwheel in order to receive "the firste fruyt" (Sum Tale 2277). The squire’s suggested setup is a parody of an illustration often found in manuscripts representing the disciples at Pentecost, when God sent the Holy Spirit to comfort the apostles.

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March 20

Class Minutes for The Monk’s Tale and the Nun’s Priest Tale:
We first began class with the Monk’s tale (one of Professor Sutherland’s favorite tales) and then we proceeded with the quiz. After the quiz Professor Sutherland began to lecture about the Nun’s Priest tale.

Professor Sutherland begins to read the opening lines of the Prologue of the Monk’s tale. Already what do we know about this monk? He likes to hunt. The Monk’s horse is one of the best horses described in the Canterbury Tales. The Monk is from the rule of St.Benedict. Professor Sutherland continues to read on. The Monk did things in the modern way not in the customary fashion. The Monk states, "when you are a monk you only pray". The higher authorities were very strict with their rules however the Monk thought all of this was nonsense. Chaucer begins to talk in his voice and he is describing the Monk’s clothing. Professor Sutherland continues to read on. The Monk is a man who loves to live well in various ways.

Fragment VII is one the longest fragments in the Canterbury Tales and one of the most important. This fragment is sometimes called the literature group, or the surprise group. Looking at page 240 the host wishes that his wife had heard this tale, since whenever he is in a fight with someone, his wife urges him to continue the violence. Even though the Host is a hearty man, he cannot stand up to his wife’s shrewishness. Professor Sutherland continues to read on at line 1895. After a few lines, Professor Sutherland states, "Wow, that’s called hitting below the belt!!!" She continues to read on. The host then turns to the Monk and tells him there is a town coming by and that it is his turn to tell a good tale. The host goes on to talk about the Monk’s physical appearance. Lines 1930 and so fourth. He states that he looks like he has been fed very well. Professor Sutherland continues to read. Professor Sutherland addresses the class and asks, "What now is he talking about?" He is talking about chastity. The Monk’s character however does not seem to fit his tale so why is he going into this classical tale? Much of this material comes from Boccaccio and from Aristotle. Professor Sutherland asked the class if they knew Aristotle’s definition of tragedy? Janice stated that the hero should have a tragic fall that evokes both pity and fear. Professor Sutherland added that there should be a reversal, some form of recognition, but not just self-recognition. He uses Oedipus as an example. Professor Sutherland gave the example of Custance and her father being two people who would be considered recognition of a great moment. Professor Sutherland then reads a detailed definition of Aristotle’s tragedy. Moving onto the Monk’s tale we start off with the reversal of fortune. The Monk begins to talk about Lucifer. Professor Sutherland asked the class if this was a real example of a tragic fall? She stated that it was not really considered a tragic fall because he fell through sin himself. He brought everything upon himself. He stepped out of line by disobeying and being to prideful. Then we see Adam who was made by God’s own fingers. Adam had a beautiful existence until one action caused him to lose everything. Then there was Sampson who was a great ruler of Israel, and he had been given tremendous strength. This story is not a good one to tell the little young ones. Professor Sutherland’s son enjoyed this tale very much. For example, tying together foxes tales and lighting them on fire is a very vivid picture for a child’s mind. Sampson’s treacherous wife convinced him to tell her the secret of his strength and then betrayed him by relating it to his enemies and taking another husband for herself. His enemies learned that his hair was the source of his power, and they blinded him, cut his hair and threw him in a cave. Professor Sutherland reads on from page 243. The disaster came because he told his wife his secret. The monk says that the moral of the story is that men should not reveal secrets to their wives. Hercules was another famous man of great strength and courage who traveled throughout the world killing ferocious animals. He fell in love with a beautiful woman, Deianira, and she made him a beautiful shirt. But poison was woven into the shirt, and when he put it on, he began to die. Hercules did not want to die from poison, so he threw himself on a fire. Fortune and Deianira combine and become one evil. Beware the subtle tricks of fortune is the moral of this tale. Or what Professor Sutherland said "Send your own shirts to the laundry" HAHAHA!!! Professor Sutherland stated that a number of famous men had been the victims of treachery and betrayal. Such other examples include King Peter of Spain, who was killed by his own brother, and King Peter of Cyprus who was killed by his companions. Then we come to Count Hugelino of Pisa who was imprisoned in a tower with his three children, the oldest of whom was only five years old. Dante writes about him and tells his own story about him. Dante uses this example as a political rant. The story begins off with his young children who are starving to death. The children declare to their father to eat them. Hugelino never speaks or cries out. The children protest saying they are hungry, focusing on the terror and hunger of the children. What is drawn out here is the pathos. Looking at lines 2405 and so fourth. Page 247. Day by day the children are crying and finally days later where the father is gnawing on his own arm, he finally eats his own children. Chaucer takes out the politics and displays the children suffering. Then there was Nero who was also another powerful man who ruled over many lands. He enjoyed his wealth and was inclined toward excess in everything. However he was a big creep because he ripped open his mother to see where he was born. Boethius uses him as an example as a tyrant in the book, Consolation of Philosophy. Chaucer goes on to display more examples from the Old Testament. For example there was Alexander the Great, Caesar and Chinobia. No one could match Alexander for power and fame. He was so victorious in battle that he conquered the entire world. However in the end his own people betrayed him. Julius Caesar then became the greatest conqueror in the world. However like Alexander his envious and jealous friends conspired against him and killed him. Fortune may seem to be man’s friend; she is not to be trusted because she often turns against man. Chinobia was not an amazon but she resembled one. She was a huntress. Then there was also Croesus, last king of Lydia, who was condemned to die by fire, but a sudden rain saved his life. Page 251. Croesus was not nice at all. Croesus burned men. Croesus had a dream, page 251, and he dreams a dream where he was on a tree being washed by Jupiter and dried out by Phoebus. His dream foretold his death but he ignored the warning. Professor Sutherland reads on saying that the Monk’s moral to all these stories is that "those who are proud, fortune will knock down." The host asks the Monk to tell another type of story but he refuses and that is when we begin with the Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale. But before Professor Sutherland began to lecture on the next prologue and tale we stopped to have the make-up quiz. After the quiz we took 15-20 minutes to evaluate Professor Sutherland. Now we begin the tale!!!

The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale:
The Nun’s Priest is a well-rounded character. He agrees and says he will try to tell them an amusing story. Professor Sutherland asked the class what made this tale rich? She told us that the tale had sheer quantity of different genres that were all stuffed together. This tale is like a mock epic. Mock epics all bounce off of each other. The way it echoes the other tales in the collection makes it such a wonderful tale. Professor Sutherland begins to read the opening lines of the Nun’s Priest Tale. Page 253. The widow and her two daughters lived in a small cottage near a meadow. They led a very pleasant, happy and simple life. She had a well-tended place and had a rooster named Chauntecleer. Right away we have this rooster described in epic and in biblical terms. This rooster was a wonderful crower and he sounded better than any other rooster, and he knew the time by intuition. He was a beautiful bird, brightly coloured and well kept. Page 254 has a major explosion of the description of Chauntecleer. His "ram" part is completely epic. Professor Sutherland continues to read on page 254. In this particular time animals sung, danced and talked. Here we are being displayed with an animal fable, a moral tale. Unlike a fable, this tale had an epic element to it. Epics tend to be "a moral", for example Pope’s Rape of the Lock. Human language, ambivalence, and inability to use words in a mathematical way are major themes. In lines 2805-2806 here we see Chauntecleer upset. Professor Sutherland continues to read on from these lines. Chauntecleer tells Pertelote that he had a bad dream of an animal that tried to kill him. Pertelote was ashamed of him for being afraid of a mere dream. How could she love someone who displayed such cowardice? She was sure the dream was caused by an excess of "red choler" in his blood and reminded him that Cato had said that dreams meant nothing. She suggested that he take a laxative to purge himself so that the dream would not recur. She even offered to help him select the herbs for this preparation. Professor Sutherland continues to read on from page 255.

Chauntecleer tells Pertelote that he has read many old books where authorities on the subject claim that just the opposite is true. As an example, he relates the story of two friends who, while on a pilgrimage, reached a busy town where they could find nowhere to stay together. So these two friends separate to go and find individual accommodations. The first one was able to stay in a stall with some oxen and the second one found a place to stay elsewhere. Later that night, the second friend had a dream in which his comrade told him that he would be murdered in an oxen stall. The young man ignored the dream, even though he dreamt it twice. His friend appeared to him in a dream a third time and told him that he had been killed and robbed. He also told him that the next day his body would be hidden in a cart full of dung. The second friend went to find his comrade the next day and, as his dream indicated, he found his friend’s body. The murder was revealed and the murderers were executed. Chauntecleer then told of another example of a dream. But this one was had a miracular dream voice. There was no body just a voice. Chaucer’s voice somehow works that way and we can never seem to pin him down. Professor Sutherland continues to read on page 256, line 3065. Two men, waiting for good weather before beginning a boat trip, spent a few days in a seaside town. The winds finally changed and after deciding to leave the next day, they went to bed early. One of them dreamed of a man who warned him that if they sailed tomorrow, they would be drowned. He tried to talk to his friend out of going, but the friend decided that dreams were nonsense, went by himself and was drowned soon after. Moving on, Professor Sutherland tells the class that there is something in this tale that we cannot see clearly. This tale is slightly disembodied from Chaucer’s other tales. We have another dream come up. When Saint Kenelm was only seven years old, he foresaw his own murder in a dream. He goes on to add that Daniel and Joseph of the Old Testament are just a few examples whose dreams foretold important events. Chaucer tries to make his point. Line 3106 to 3150, page 257.

In line 3165, Chauntecleer gives a paraphrase of this Latin saying. "In the beginning, woman is the confusion of man". On page 258, Professor Sutherland reads out "that the way to a man is through his stomach". Later on we find Chauntecleer in his court the next day with his seven wives. He goes on to comment about the sun and talks about spring. During this time the birds are singing, a very funny moment. Suddenly we have the lurky murderer come in to the farmyard. This is a bit extreme but we have the fox that is hiding in the cabbage-bed. Once again we get a bit of Boethius. Line 3240, providence becomes a necessity. Necessity has two links, direct and conditional necessity. Here we get this strange bit of antifeminism. Really it does not turn out to be his wife’s fault. Professor Sutherland continues to read on. Professor Sutherland adds that the word "divine" can either be used as a noun, an adjective or a verb. Professor Sutherland adds that saying "I know nothing of divine woman" is kind of a joke. This garden is the Garden of Eden, but reversed, it’s an appraisal to Eden not to Eve. There is more music and more feeling. Professor Sutherland continues to read. The fox praises Chauntecleer’s father. The fox then asks Chauntecleer if he would sing so that the fox could tell if he really was better than his father. Chauntecleer closes his eyes and begins to sing and that is when the fox immediately leaps upon him, grabs him by the neck and carries him off into the woods. Professor Sutherland adds that Pertelote is not being compared to Eve, she is like the women in "The Legends of Good Women." Then we have the widow in line 3376. There is a lot of noise from this passage.

Professor Sutherlands asks the class is this what stops the fox? No, but it sort of helps out the situation. In line 3406 Chauntecleer suggests to the fox that he should yell back at his pursuers. Professor Sutherland continues to read from line 3406. Professor Sutherland described in her own words what Chauntecleer was really saying. "In other words, if I was an aristocrat like you I would tell them to go to hell!!!" Without thinking, the fox decided to do just that and opened his mouth to shout some insults. Chauntecleer immediately escaped and flew up into a tree. Line 3426. Chauntecleer states that they were both idiots. And no matter how much the fox could talk about his royal blood and all, he was still an idiot and would not close his eyes on him again. This is the moment where Chauntecleer stands up and puts two and two together. The rooster learned his lesson and would not allow his vanity to get him into such trouble again! Professor Sutherland asked the class where authority comes from? Authority comes from the sense of our own identity and some sort of reflexivity. We had the rooster flapping all around like fortune but this mode has been pushed and bad things have happened but Chauntecleer can turn this around. Professor Sutherland continues to read. The rooster draws out his own moral, "Don’t talk too much!!!" Then we have the narrator who tells us what he thinks the moral of this tale is about. "Just don’t dismiss things!!!" Now were getting scripture, everything that is written is from our teaching. Take the grain of this and do not worry about the feathers. Professor Sutherland asks the class another question. Is this a tale simply about flattery? Boethius said you have to take both fruit and chaff. She then asked us what were the non-moral parts of this tale? Answer: the wives and the feathering. Within the tale it is hard to pin point the chaff. Chaucer is establishing himself as the authority figure and telling the story in his own way. The class had no comments about the fruit and the chaff. The moral itself is a meta moral; how the telling of the tales is inextricable. Professor added that you should let flattery get to you. Inspite of the fact that he has fallen, he gets a bit wiser. Professor Sutherland then began to discuss the epilogue of the Nun’s Priest Tale. This story is about eloquence from start to finish.
1. Heroics
2. Science- astronomy
3. Courtly Love
4. Dreams
5. Scholarships
6. Authority
7. Patient humility- the old woman
The host congratulates the Nun’s Priest on his merry tale of Chauntecleer. Once again, he makes joking comments about women and he suggests that if the Nun’s Priest had not entered the church, he would have been a very popular man among women.
Professor Sutherland ended her lecture and Graham began his presentation about the Peasants revolt of 1831.
Good Night!

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March 27

Julia Sakas

Tonight’s lecture focused on Fragment VIII of The Canterbury Tales, including The Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale and The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale. Professor Sutherland pointed out that the major theme running through this fragment is the theme of alchemy. She also reminded us that Fragments VIII, IX and X come as a group in most manuscripts and are meant to lead us to the end of the Pilgrimage, so we will arrive in Canterbury next week!

After an informative presentation by Andrew on alchemy and one equally informative on Saints by Albert, we plunged into the tales.
The Second Nun’s Tale, like the Nun’s Priest’s tale that preceded it, deals with the ideas of identity and authority, but in a very different way. The Prologue of this tale begins with a condemnation of idleness. It echoes the "Romance of the Rose", wherein a woman named ‘idleness’ has sole access to the Garden of Love. Therefore, we know that this tale is a story of love: but is it about divine or earthly love? Unlike the "Romance of the Rose", however, this prologue condemns idleness, for ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’.

The Invocacio ad Mariam is also redolent with references to Dante’s Paradiso, wherein he devotes a hymn to Mary. On line 43, Mary is aptly described as a ‘cloister’, for she is the walled body that contains the ‘Son’. This Invocacio also reveals a problem in this Prologue; the nun, on line 62, calls herself a "sone of Eve". As it says in the index on page 946, a nun would probably have referred to herself as a ‘daughter’ of Eve, therefore, Chaucer may have meant for this tale to have been told by another pilgrim.

The third part of the Prologue is an "Etymology" of Saint Cecilia’s name. This is an attempt to pin the name of a Saint to a specific kind of essence. Here, Cecilia’s name is likened to a "hevenes lilie" (87), representing her chastity, then taken to mean "the wey to blynde" (92), meaning that she is a leader of the blind, and finally, the last part of her name, "Lia" (96), is the Greek word for people. In Saint’s lives, an etymology attempts to determine how their names say something about their character.

The Second Nun’s Tale is a tale about Saint Cecilia; a hagiography of her passion at the hands of her persecutors. The tale takes place before Constantine’s reign, when Christianity was condemned and Christians themselves were martyred if they did not renounce their faith. In this tale, the ruthless leader and persecutor, Almachius, tortures and kills Christians as a sacrifice to his own pagan god, Jupiter.

Like the Merchant’s Tale, the theme of sight and vision runs through this tale as well. In the Merchant’s tale, Januarie reads the Bible too literally with regards to married life. In reality, there are four ways of reading something: literally, allegorically, morally and anagogically. In the late Middle Ages, however, only the first two were still recognized. To read the Bible literally is to look for the meaning of the stories, whereas to read it allegorically is to determine the symbolism behind the words and what they represent. In this light, we are to see Cecilia’s marriage not as a literal marriage to a man, but as a marriage to God. Therefore, her duty on her wedding night is not to procreate with her new husband to produce children, but to spread her faith to her husband and to others around her, thus producing new children of God. Thus is the alchemical aspect of the tale; Cecilia, like the Elixir, used to transform base metals into gold, transforms those around her. She embodies a contagious religion, purity and fragrance and inspires those around her to be baptized. The first to be transformed is her husband, Valerian, who is sent to Pope Urban (who is hiding in the catacombs of Rome, a safe-haven for Christians who are being sought to be sacrificed) and returns a new Christian. Later, his brother Tiberius undergoes the same transmutation. When these two new Christians are condemned by Almachius to be the newest sacrifices, even Maximus and the tormentors sent to retrieve them catch this contagious "saintliness" and are beheaded alongside Valerian and Tiberius. This snowballing began in the "lit des noces" of Cecilia and Valerian and through them, transformed all those with whom they came in contact. What will happen when she is faced with the ruler of the pagans, Almachius?

Here enters the theme of authority. Throughout Cecilia’s confrontation with Almachius, the leader asserts his authority over the people and his resulting ability to kill whomever he pleases, while Cecilia’s authority comes from her religious belief and her power to preach. Here, we see a shift from the idea of authority in the dream poems, which stems from the ability to produce art, to the delegation of authority from the very author of these tales to the storytellers themselves. Chaucer steps down from his seat of authority as author to take his place among the pilgrims, giving authority more of a communal aspect.
While Cecilia and Almachius battle for authority, we see the importance of personality. Throughout the Canterbury Tales, one’s ‘person’ is defined as something external; a public bearing, or a façade donned by each individual when in a public place. Here, Cecilia’s public appearance is unfaltering, for she must defend herself and her religion, in the tradition of the true martyr. Like Boethius, Cecilia believes that authority and power are useless over her, since the less powerful one always has his free will. Cecilia goes so far on line 462 to laugh in his face; a blatant insult that says ‘you have no power over me’. When she is given her choice on line 458, she chooses, of her own will, to defend her religion to the death; and Almachius sentences her to a most gruesome death. Although she is to be boiled in a cauldron and beaten by the tormentors, she does not feel pain, since she is a true martyr. Like the little boy in the Prioress’s tale, Cecilia still has a voice when most regular humans would not be able to speak. For, while barely alive, Cecilia is still able to preach and to assert her wish to have her home converted into a church. Like the same little boy, whose gravesite becomes a shrine for pilgrimage, so her home becomes a place of worship for those who believe as strongly as she did.

The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue, although very different in nature, also deals with the theme of alchemy and transformation. In the prologue, we meet the Canon, all decked out in black in white, who has struggled to overtake and join the pilgrims. His yeoman, who seems to be a sort of servant to him, seizes the opportunity to join the storytelling, but wishes to tell a tale about the Canon himself, who then sneaks away in shame. On lines 620-6, the Yeoman begins by stating that the Canon could change the earthy, pious road to Canterbury into gold; a fact which forces the host to ask why he wouldn’t take such pains to improve his own appearance (again, the importance of one’s outer ‘person’ as a sign of one’s inner personality). To the host, the Yeoman himself seems to have a distinguishing alteration in his person. His face is discoloured, and on line 664, he explains that his hue has been changed by his close contact with an alchemist’s fire and begins to reveal the Canon’s secrets.

The Yeoman’s tale takes on the form of a confessional tale, wherein the teller gives away the secrets of his trade (much like the Pardoner). This tale about alchemy has no source, which leads to suspicions about Chaucer, who can easily make poetry out of something that is very technical. Was Chaucer an alchemist himself? (Funny, Andrew and Professor Sutherland seemed to know a little about alchemy too….)

The Prima Pars of this tale explains how the metals are prepared, while the Canon’s men go through the six stages of alchemy (breaking down the material; mixing the material; producing a white elixir for silver; producing the red elixir for gold; augmenting the potency of the red elixir; and finally, transmutation – the elixir is applied to immature metals such as lead or copper). This is done in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, or, the elixir that can actually produce gold. The sweaty workshop in which this process is executed is described as a devil’s workshop, where the men work like slaves and, when things go wrong as they sometimes do, the men turn on each-other to determine where to place blame. This process is also associated with Christ; it represents his passion or his ‘breaking down’ before his ‘transformation’ and resurrection.

The pars secunda is a tale of a religious canon who uses his knowledge of alchemy for trickery. After reassuring the pilgrims on line 1002 that this tale is not intended to condemn all canons, but merely to suggest that there are bad apples in every bunch, the Yeoman recounts the tale of a canon and a priest and suggests that, although the Canon is at fault for his trickery, the priest is equally as bad for his naiveté. The Canon uses three tricks to fool the priest: on 1160, he pulls out a coal containing silver filings that will be released once immersed in the fire; on 1265, he reveals a hollow stick with silver inside; and on 1320, he releases a silver ingot from up his sleeve. Each of these serve to trick the priest into thinking that his alchemy actually produced fine silver from base metals, when in reality, he had the elixir made already and used his props to feign the creation of silver. Later, the Canon sells this ‘sely’ priest his recipe for 40 pounds (quite a hefty sum) and leaves before the priest can try the recipe on his own and discover that it will never produce silver.

On line 1394, the Yeoman tells the pilgrims about the obscurity of the language used by alchemists, making it impossible for the layman to get the desired effects of their recipes. The moral of the story, therefore, is: if you are caught in such an obsession as alchemy (or trickery?), give it up now, before you become like the Canon. Also, do not attempt this craft until you understand the philosopher’s language, which can be obscure and can not be read literally. This likens the alchemists’ lore to the Bible, which also has dual meanings when read literally and allegorically. It is incomprehensible and can only be used by Christ, for only he understands the process of transformation.

Both the Second Nun’s tale and the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale deal with this idea of transformation. In the former, Cecilia deals with the transformation of pagans to converts, thus taking the ‘lost’ and making believers out of them. In the latter, however, the Yeoman cautions people about this kind of transformation, which ruined his life and made him a skeptic.

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