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Mythographic Chaucer

The Fabulation of Sexual Politics

1994
Author:

Jane Chance

Mythographic Chaucer

Provides a many-sided look at the poems of Chaucer and the sexual politics of his day.

Jane Chance reveals how the concealment of embarrassing secrets often sexual in nature and the burden of political alliances and strategies-what might together be termed sexual politics-motivated Chaucer in much of his work. Firmly placing Chaucer in the cultural politics of his time, she shows how he manipulated the mythographic and textual conventions of the period for his own literary, social, and political purposes.

I could not put The Mythographic Chaucer down. It makes sense of the Chaucerian corpus in a way that delights and enchants those who know and love Chaucerian poetry and Chaucerian games.

Julie Holloway, Professor Emerita

The concealment of embarrassing, often sexual, secrets and the burden of political alliances and strategies-in short, sexual politics-motivated Chaucer in much of his work. This concept, long suspected but mostly ignored by Chaucer critics, finally receives its first full treatment in The Mythographic Chaucer. Firmly placing Chaucer in the cultural politics of his time, Jane Chance shows how he inverted the mythographic and textual conventions of the period for his own literary, social, and political purposes.

Comparing significant mythological images, references, and figures in Chaucerian poems with those of other medieval mythographers, Chance discloses Chaucer's ironic use of mythographic tradition to disguise the scandalous and politically sensitive. Here we see, for instance, how Chaucer relied on the medieval model of poetic concealment to construct the fabulation (the narratio fabulosa, itself a medieval techne) of sexual politics.

This analysis gives us a rich sense of the complexity of Chaucer's mythographic options and his playful employment of contextual material as he rewrote-and tried to resolve-tensions among vernacular, classical, and Christian (sometimes Hebraic) scriptural and textual traditions. Invaluable to an understanding of Chaucer, this book is also instructive in showing how mythographic analysis can combine "traditional" literary elucidation with the issues of contemporary cultural theory.

Mythographic Chaucer

Jane Chance is professor of English at Rice University. She is the author of numerous books, including The Genius Figure in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (1975), Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England (1979), and Woman as Hero in Old English Literature (1986), and editor of The Mythographic Art: Classical Fable and the Rise of the Vernacular in Early France and England (1990)

Mythographic Chaucer

I could not put The Mythographic Chaucer down. It makes sense of the Chaucerian corpus in a way that delights and enchants those who know and love Chaucerian poetry and Chaucerian games.

Julie Holloway, Professor Emerita

As the sixth century of Chaucer's compelling poetic legacy closes, the effort to look into his text for likenesses of himself and his world but ultimately, as if in a mirror, for images of ourselves, continues with a searching intensity that befits our very own fin de siècle. Opening a new line of inquiry into an old subject, Jane Chance has conducted a comprehensive and critically savvy exploration of Chaucer's poetry through the lens of her expertise in medieval mythography and given us an intriguing version of the poet's ambitious and novel agenda for a radical revision of his culture's ample and diverse mythographic tradition. Chance's learned account of how Chaucer created a personal antimythography develops into a sophisticated critical theory about his career-long evolution of a feminized subjectivity that will hold surprises, challenges, and rewards for every reader.

George D. Economou University of Oklahoma

Jane Chance has enriched medieval studies immeasurable by supplying us with the most comprehensive, detailed survey of medieval mythography to date, as well as analysis of Chaucer’s appropriation of that tradition.

Cithara

Jane Chance’s contributions to mythographic criticism are impressive, to say the least. Chance’s erudition and impressive scholarship are clearly apparent in this work.

Mark Allen University of Texas at San Antonio

Chance presents a thorough study of her subject in The Mythographic Chaucer. Her focus on Chaucer’s use of classical material and medieval mythographies in order to explicate his transformation of the tradition is provocative and engaging.

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