"No man but me" : Chaucer's Legend of good women and the ironic subversion of masculine representation. (1993)
AuthorsHayward, Rebecca Janeshow all
In Chaucer's Legend of Good Women, irony comes from both the narrator's perspective on the women he aims to represent in the legends, and from the author's and reader's perspectives on the narrator as a constructed persona. In this thesis, I trace the ironic development of the narrator's relationship with written authority in the G Prologue, without completely disregarding the F Prologue. I examine the narrator's anxiety, caused by his desire to believe in the presence of God to provide meaning for his text. This desire derives from his belief that for texts to be authoritative, their writers must be present in them. To construct an identity for himself in writing as a masculine subject, the narrator controls the representation of women in his text, partly through his continuing interest in and identification with the members of his own sex. Other strategies used by the narrator to control the representation of women, who come to symbolise the cultural qualities of femininity, are his interpolations, asserting that their stories are boring and must be hurried through, his use of sexual imagery to reinforce the phallic domination of women and his juxtaposition of courtly, Christian and classical imagery in his heroines. The conflict between these frames of reference, particularly the simultaneous presence of the Christian God and the classical gods and goddesses in the text, leads to the breakdown of the narrator's attempts at signification. Despite his efforts to extinguish the values culturally associated with femininity, the irony which works against him as the narrator paradoxically reveals a potential space for the representation of the feminine.