Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MA English

Department

English

Advisor

Angela Weisl, Ph.D

Committee Member

Donovan Sherman, Ph.D

Keywords

chaucer, medieval, canterbury tales

Abstract

If there is one question that underpins the evaluation of any great literary work, it is the following: How does the text make us feel? Through affect and textural studies, the answer becomes more complicated than any old adage might readily convey, for “feeling” here becomes a matter of simultaneous tactility and sentiment. Under this lens, perhaps no historical period becomes more desirable to feel than the Middle Ages; it is here, after all, that readers’ responsibilities with texts are pluralized: readers move from listeners born from oral traditions to participants of all kinds. Feeling, then, may be found in that nexus of sounds and sensation, and Chaucer’s fabliaux, through their appropriation of old language sounds into a new Middle English sensibility, become important examples of linguistic friction during the late medieval period. In other words, the sounds Chaucer produces direct attention toward the way that the body is present all times and the problem that arises when bodies inadvertently cross one another. Chaucer’s sounds in “The Miller’s Prologue” and “The Miller’s Tale” become especially apt in this investigation, because the Miller’s enigmatic disposition cultivates inquiry into how much tales can be separated from their authors and how relevant or irrelevant ownership becomes under a linguistic approach, where language creates, rather than abides by, any rules or limitations. If nothing else, The Canterbury Tales fashions itself as a love letter to language and literature in the ways that its ambition counters all assessments of what reading and writing can do. But therein is the deepest motivation of “The Miller’s Tale”: to do something to its audience, and to do so through language.

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