Fallible Authors: Chaucer's Pardoner and Wife of Bath [NOOK Book]

Overview

Can an outrageously immoral man or a scandalous woman teach morality or lead people to virtue? Does personal fallibility devalue one's words and deeds? Is it possible to separate the private from the public, to segregate individual failing from official function? Chaucer addressed these perennial issues through two problematic authority figures, the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath. The Pardoner dares to assume official roles to which he has no legal claim and for which he is quite unsuited. We are faced with the ...

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Fallible Authors: Chaucer's Pardoner and Wife of Bath

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Overview

Can an outrageously immoral man or a scandalous woman teach morality or lead people to virtue? Does personal fallibility devalue one's words and deeds? Is it possible to separate the private from the public, to segregate individual failing from official function? Chaucer addressed these perennial issues through two problematic authority figures, the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath. The Pardoner dares to assume official roles to which he has no legal claim and for which he is quite unsuited. We are faced with the shocking consequences of the belief, standard for the time, that immorality is not necessarily a bar to effective ministry. Even more subversively, the Wife of Bath, who represents one of the most despised stereotypes in medieval literature, the sexually rapacious widow, dispenses wisdom of the highest order.

This innovative book places these "fallible authors" within the full intellectual context that gave them meaning. Alastair Minnis magisterially examines the impact of Aristotelian thought on preaching theory, the controversial practice of granting indulgences, religious and medical categorizations of deviant bodies, theological attempts to rationalize sex within marriage, Wycliffite doctrine that made authority dependent on individual grace and raised the specter of Donatism, and heretical speculation concerning the possibility of female teachers. Chaucer's Pardoner and Wife of Bath are revealed as interconnected aspects of a single radical experiment wherein the relationship between objective authority and subjective fallibility is confronted as never before.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In pages rich with explication of scholastic, literary, and historical material, Minnis recovers a medieval notion of authorial fallibility."—Seth Lerer, TimesOnline

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812205718
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Series: The Middle Ages Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 528
  • File size: 966 KB

Meet the Author

Alastair Minnis is Professor of English at Yale University. He is the author of many articles and books, including Medieval Theory of Authorship, and is coeditor of The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 2: The Middle Ages.
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Table of Contents


Preface     xi
Introduction: Authority and Fallibility in Medieval Textual Culture     1
De officio praedicatoris: Of Preaching, Pardons, and Power     36
Constructing the Preacher: Authority, Knowledge, Attributes     37
The Sinful Preacher: Secrecy, Scandal, and Skill     40
Art versus Virtue: The Challenge of Aristotle     48
Theory into Practice: Codes of Conduct in Preachers' Handbooks     51
Consecrating the Sacraments: Priestly Power and the Keys to Heaven     54
Sin versus Sacrament: Evil Ministers of the Mass     55
Vetula baptizat, et baptizatum est: The Power to Baptize     62
Authority and Agency in the Tribunal of Penance     68
Making Indulgences: Spiritual and Material Economies     74
Marketing the Divine Mercy     78
Authority and Jurisdiction in the Dispensing of Pardon     87
Honoring Becket: The Case for Canterbury     91
Moral Fallibility: Chaucer's Pardoner and the Office of Preacher     98
Alms and the Man: The Deviant Pardoner     99
Prechyng for coveityse: The Deviant Preacher     118
Breaking Bodies: The Drunkard's Eucharist     135
Geldyng or mare: The Deviant Body     147
Chaucer and the Queering Eunuch     152
Reclaiming Public Deviancy     161
De impedimento sexus: Women's Bodies and the Prohibition of Priestly Power     170
Sex versus Sacrament: The Constrictions of Symbolism     173
Sexus non est in anima: Orthodox Positions     175
Crowning Glories     180
A Woman's Touch     182
Silence in Church: Private Teaching and the Denial of Public Office     183
Confining the auditrix and doctrix     183
Limiting Biblical Precedent     189
Unnatural Selection: Authorization Through Inspiration     199
Prophecy and Purity of Life: In Defense of Holy Women     200
Affirming Biblical Precedent     207
Sexus non est in anima: Heterodox Reactions     210
John Wyclif: A Shameless Worker for Women?     211
Walter Brut: Female Ministry in the Absence of Men     221
Confronting the praedicatrix     226
Feminizing Donatism     231
Women Priests and Absolute Power     236
Changing Bodies: Pythagoras and the Transactions of Polemic     240
Gender as Fallibility: Chaucer's Wife of Bath and the Impediment of Sex     246
Alisoun Among the auctoritees     250
Unbridling Desire: Female Sexuality and the Making of Marriage     264
An Unstable Human Matter     264
Only for Amorous Love     282
Old Wives' Tales: Vetularity and Virtue     294
Challenging Obscenity: From coilles to bel chose     295
The Wisdom of Old Women     307
Beyond the Body? Alisoun on Sovereignty of Soul     312
The Lusts of Loathly Damsels: Sovereignty as Sexual Possession     313
Sourcing Dominion: gentillesse and Gender     315
Publishing the Private     332
List of Abbreviations     349
Notes     353
Bibliography     467
General Index     489
Index of Biblical Citations     505
Acknowledgments     509
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