Chaucer's Visions of Manhood

Overview

"This book argues that Chaucer challenges his culture's mounting obsession with vision through his varied constructions of masculinity. Because medieval theories of vision relied upon distinctions between active and passive seers and viewers, optical discourse had social and moral implications for gender difference in late fourteenth-century England. By exploring ocularity's equal dependence on invisibility, Chaucer offers men and women access to a vision of "manhed," one that fragments a traditional gender binary by blurring its division between ...
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Chaucer's Visions of Manhood

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Overview

"This book argues that Chaucer challenges his culture's mounting obsession with vision through his varied constructions of masculinity. Because medieval theories of vision relied upon distinctions between active and passive seers and viewers, optical discourse had social and moral implications for gender difference in late fourteenth-century England. By exploring ocularity's equal dependence on invisibility, Chaucer offers men and women access to a vision of "manhed," one that fragments a traditional gender binary by blurring its division between agency and passivity."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book is an important contribution not just to the study of gender in the past but also to current heory, offering a combination of psychoanalysis and historicism . . . the end effect is a full account of the medieval contribution to the construction of the male universal . . . a crucial and intelligent addition to the subject and a credit to the interesting New Middle Ages series at Palgrave." - Studies in the Age of Chaucer

"In Chaucer's Visions of Manhood, Holly A. Crocker attempts to bring together two important recent strands of Chaucer criticism and, indeed, of medieval literary scholarship more generally: gender studies, specifically critical studies in masculinity, and historical vision theory. Her attempt is quite successful and will be of considerable interest to medievalists working
in either or both of these areas." - Journal of British Studies

"Masculinity is boring. Or rather, particular types of masculinities pass themselves off as boring, unremarkable, and even invisible. Yet the seeming boringness of masculinity is key to Holly Crocker's trenchant investigation of how gender works within the Chaucerian corpus. Deliberately avoiding the more popular Chaucerian figures and texts - such as the Pardoner and his tale - in recent studies of medieval gender and sexuality, Crocker instead treats "a much weirder kettle of fish" (16) in her monograph: the Tale of Melibee, the Physician's Tale, the Book of the Duchess, the Shipman's Tale, and the manuscript Harley 7333. While some of these texts may not have received much critical attention by critics who view them as boring in one way or another, they are, in Crocker's view, more extreme and excessive in their representations of masculinity and femininity. One could argue that Crocker's project, by virtue of its chosen texts, is also a study of 'minor' literature within the Chaucerian canon." - The Medieval Review"

This is a stellar addition to the growing galaxy of books and articles on Chaucer's construction of gender. Crocker takes a fresh look at visibility and invisibility, agency and identity, transgression and performance in The Book of the Duchess and several of the narratives in the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's Visions of Manhood is balanced, original, sophisticated, and firmly grounded both in medieval ocular theory and in the psychoanalytic and historicist theories of modern scholars. Appropriately for a book on vision and visibility, it gives us fresh insights on every page, and it leaves us, finally, with a sensible view of Chaucer-the pilgrim, the poet, and the man." - Peter G. Beidler, Lehigh University; Editor of Masculinities in Chaucer

"Not since Carolyn Dinshaw's Chaucer's Sexual Poetics has a single study revolutionized our understanding of Chaucer's construction of gender, but Chaucer's Visions of Manhood more than matches this lofty goal. Reading the privileged cultural invisibility accorded to masculinity within Chaucer's fictions, Crocker exposes the ideological inventions and subterfuges necessary to maintain gender as a regulatory system almost impervious to dissolution yet simultaneously needing endless cultural support." - Tison Pugh, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida

"Crocker's subtle and learned illumination of the dialectics of [in]visibility that undergirds gender formation in Chaucer's poetry moves critical discussion of gender in late medieval poetry to another level. Rather than presenting a predictable analysis of Chaucer's male characters, she traces Chaucer's challenge to masculinity's [in]visible privilege in order to reveal the multiple possibilities for both male and female agency afforded by Chaucer's work. This is a book that everyone interested in historicizing theories of the gaze must read." - Elizabeth Robertson, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403975713
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: New Middle Ages Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Holly A. Crocker is Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. Her articles appear in Chaucer Review, Shakespeare Quarterly, Medieval Feminist Forum, and a number of edited collections. She recently edited a collection of essays entitled Comic Provocations: Exposing the Corpus of Old French Fabliaux (Palgrave Macmillan 2006).

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Table of Contents

Chaucer's Visions of Manhood
• Seeing Gender's Aspects: Vision, Agency, and Masculinity in the Tale of Melibee
Portrait of a Father as a Bad Man: Visible Pressure in the Physician's Tale * "My first matere I wil yow telle": Visual Impact in the Book of the Duchess *Which Wife? What Man? Gender Invisibility Between Chaucer's Wife and Shipman * Miscellaneous Chaucer: Proverbial Masculinity in Harley 7333

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