The Disenchanted Self

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The question of the "dramatic principle" in the Canterbury Tales, of whether and how the individual tales relate to the pilgrims who are supposed to tell them, has long been a central issue in the interpretation of Chaucer's work. Drawing on ideas from deconstruction, psychoanalysis, and social theory, Leicester proposes that Chaucer can lead us beyond the impasses of contemporary literary theory and suggests new approaches to questions of agency, representation, and the gendered imagination.

Leicester reads the Canterbury Tales as radically voiced and redefines concepts like "self" and "character" in the light of current discussions of language and subjectivity. He argues for Chaucer's disenchanted practical understanding of the constructed character of the self, gender, and society, building his case through close readings of the Pardoner's, Wife of Bath's, and Knight's tales. His study is among the first major treatments of Chaucer's poetry utilizing the techniques of contemporary literary theory and provides new models for reading the poems while revising many older views of them and of Chaucer's relation to his age.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520068339
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/1990
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 468
  • Sales rank: 1,557,352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

H. Marshall Leicester, Jr. is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of several articles on Chaucer and medieval literature.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction I
Part 1 Chaucer's Subject
1. The Pardoner as Disenchanted Consciousness and Despairing Self 35
2. Self-Presentation and Disenchantment in the Wife of Bath's Prologue: A Prospective View 65
3. Retrospective Revision and the Emergence of the Subject in the Wife of Bath's Prologue 82
4. Janekyn's Book: The Subject as Text 114
5. Subjectivity and Disenchantment: The Wife of Bath's Tale as Institutional Critique 140
Part 2 The Subject Engendered
6. The Pardoner as Subject: Deconstruction and Practical Consciousness 161
7. From Deconstruction to Psychoanalysis and Beyond: Disenchantment and the "Masculine" Imagination 178
8. The "Feminine" Imagination and Jouissance 195
Part 3 The Institution of the Subject: A Reading of the Knight's Tale
9. The Knight's Critique of Genre I: Ambivalence and Generic Style 221
10. The Knight's Critique of Genre II: From Representation to Revision 243
11. Regarding Knighthood: A Practical Critique of the "Masculine" Gaze 267
12. The Unhousing of the Gods: Character, Habitus, and Necessity in Part III 295
13. Choosing Manhood: The "Masculine" Imagination and the Institution of the Subject 322
14. Doing Knighthood: Heroic Disenchantment and the Subject of Chivalry 352
Conclusion: The Disenchanted Self 383
Works Cited 419
Index 433
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2003

    A fascinating, challenging and all around sheer joy to venture.

    A seminal work not to be missed by devout Chaucer fans. Don't pass this up, baby! Don't you dare!

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