Chaucer's Queer Poetics: Rereading the Dream Trio
Published: October 2006© 2006
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 460 Pages
Dimensions: 6.26 x 9.30
460 Pages, 6.26 x 9.30 x 1.22 in
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Geoffrey Chaucer was arguably fourteenth-century England's greatest poet. In the nineteenth century, readers of Chaucer's early dream poems - the Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowles - began to detect a tripartite model of his artistic development from a French to an Italian, and finally to an English phase. They fleshed out this model with the liberation narrative, the inspiring story of how Chaucer escaped the emasculating French house of bondage to become the generative father of English poetry. Although this division has now largely been dismissed, both the tripartite model and the accompanying liberation narrative persist in Chaucer criticism.
In Chaucer's Queer Poetics, Susan Schibanoff interrogates why the tripartite model remains so tenacious even when literary history does not support it. Revealing deeply rooted Francophobic, homophobic, and nationalistic biases, Schibanoff examines the development paradigm and demonstrates that 'liberated Chaucer' depends on antiquated readings of key source texts for the dream trilogy. This study challenges the long held view the Chaucer fled the prison of effete French court verse to become the 'natural' English father poet and charts a new model of Chaucerian poetic development that discovers the emergence of a queer aesthetic in his work.
“In Chaucer’s Queer Poetics, Susan Schibanoff challenges the well established view that Chaucer’s early poetry traces a three-step progression as Chaucer escapes from the constraints of an overly refined French court tradition by turning to muscular Italian models, finally achieving a distinctive English voice. Against this tradition, Schibanoff champions an alternative poetics that maybe loosely designated as “queer,” one that is often expressed through a narrator who is a social outsider, that draws on strategies of listening, and that values fragmentary and polyphonic works. This powerful study is clearly written, well argued, and reflects the deep knowledge of a senior scholar and highly independent thinker.”Andrew Taylor, Department of English, University of Ottawa
"In Chaucer’s Queer Poetics Susan Schibanoff displays a precise, almost encyclopedic, knowledge of the complex Chaucerian critical tradition operating and demonstrates an astute engagement with recent work in gender, sexuality and queer medievalist studies. Her provocative close readings of key texts influencing Chaucer, as well as her nuanced and original engagement with the Chaucerian dream visions themselves, should very usefully reorient the gaze of Chaucer studies to consider a poetics developing outside the laws of heterosexual, patriarchal, and nationalist authority."Glenn Burger, English and Medieval Studies, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY