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Chaucer and Array

Chaucer and Array: Patterns of Costume and Fabric Rhetoric in The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde and Other Works

Series: Chaucer Studies
Volume: 42
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Chaucer and Array
    Book Description:

    The use Chaucer made of costume rhetoric, and its function within his works, are examined here for the first time. The study explores Chaucer's knowledge of the conventional imagery of medieval literary genres, especially medievalromances and fabliaux, and his manipulation of rhetorical conventions through variations and omissions. In particular, it addresses Chaucer's habit of playing upon his audience's expectations, derived from their knowledgeof the literary genres involved - and why he omits lengthy passages of costume rhetoric in his romances, but includes them in some of his comedic works, It also discusses the numerous minor facets of costume rhetoric employed in decorating his texts. Chaucer and Array also responds to the questions posed by medievalists concerning Chaucer's characteristic pattern of apportioning descriptive detail in his characterization by costume and in his depiction of clothing and textiles representing contemporary material culture, focussing attention on the literary meaning of clothing and fabrics as well as on their historic, economic and religious signification. LauraF. Hodges blends her interests in medieval literature and the history of costume in her publications, specializing in the semiotics of costume and fabrics in literature. A teacher of English literature for a number of years, sheholds a doctorate in literature from Rice University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-229-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    A cross the decades of my research on his costume rhetoric, the question most often posed to me has been: is there a characteristic pattern of costume rhetoric in Geoffrey Chaucer’s work? Throughout my study of hisGeneral Prologue(GP) toThe Canterbury Tales,I searched in vain for such a configuration or methodology,¹ even though theGPis Chaucer’stour de forcefor such descriptions. This single work (c. 1387) demonstrates Chaucer’s art of variety as he masterfully puts into poetic play evocative words and phrases that shape the dress of numerous pilgrims, each fashion term contributing to their...

  7. 1 Dressing the Warrior and the Streets of Athens in the Knight’s Tale
    (pp. 14-53)

    Colorful, lavish dress is the hallmark of processional spectacles in the Middle Ages, according to accounts of processions in period chronicles, records, and secular romances. Although chronicle depictions of costume are never as detailed as present-day readers might wish, medieval romances often provide sumptuous details, and occasionally medieval records explain or testify to the accuracy of a portion of romance descriptions. Geoffrey Chaucer’s romance,The Knight’s Tale(KnT), both follows this tradition of costume depiction in its spectacular processions and deviates from it, simultaneously fulfilling and thwarting the audience’s expectations of tales which we, now, would classify as within the...

  8. 2 Sartorial Signs in Troilus And Criseyde
    (pp. 54-90)

    Similar to Chaucer’sKnight’s Tale, hisTroilus and Criseyde¹ lacks lengthy romance costume passages for his major characters. However this omission may have disappointed his contemporary audience’s expectations, his costume signs, metaphors, and allusions in this work comprise a more substantive list than has previously been analyzed. This list includes widow’s weeds with appropriate headdress, armor, weapons, coat armor, two rings, one or two brooches, hoods, shirts, furred cloak, pilgrim’s weeds, a sleeve, and a glove. Further, Chaucer’s methodology in deploying a number of significant costume images and his skill in doing so have been generally overlooked by critics.² Pregnant...

  9. 3 Reading Griselda’s Smocks in the Clerk’s Tale
    (pp. 91-117)

    Ranging from the ostentatious and richly ornamented to the utmost in simplicity, the basic undergarment – the smock – speaks to the audience for medieval literature through the details of its fabric and/or construction as specified by individual medieval authors. It is often employed metaphorically in phrases such as “clad in his [or her] sherte alone,” as discussed when dealing with Geoffrey Chaucer’s variations of this well-known metaphor inTroilus and Criseyde(IV, 96, 1522–23).¹ These wearers of a “sherte alone” are presented in the state of virtual nakedness, bereft of all usual signs of social rank, and, on occasion, suffering...

  10. 4 Reading Alison’s Smock in the Miller’s Tale
    (pp. 118-139)

    In theMiller’s Tale,Chaucer provides an extensive introductory portrait of Alison, a winsome and nubile wife of an elderly carpenter. Her description is replete with arresting costume details. Sucheffictiois normally part of the “formal artistry” employed as rhetorical decoration in medieval romances at a “first appearance” of a character in a story and “when an account of their beauty could explain the attraction of one character for another.”² However, Chaucer employs this artistic, rhetorical convention within the early lines of hisMiller’s Tale(MilT), a fabliau, a genre in which it is not quite so much at...

  11. 5 Costume Rhetoric for Sir Thopas, “knyght auntrous”
    (pp. 140-166)

    “No writer of Middle English stanzaic verse shows such versatile technical mastery as Chaucer does in the Prologue and Tale ofSir Thopas,” states E. G. Stanley, hastening to add that this mastery is demonstrated in Chaucer’s “incompetence.”¹ Stanley refers here to theGeneral Prologuefiction of the pil grim-narrator’s “incompetence,” of course, and to the court poet extraordinaire Geoffrey Chaucer’s “versatile technical mastery.” Both of these Chaucers produce theTale of Sir Thopas, managing to incorporate numerous romance motifs and conventions, at the same time satisfying and exasperating audience expectations. Nowhere is this process of reversal so apparent as...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. 6 Conclusion: Other Facets of Chaucer’s Fabric and Costume Rhetoric
    (pp. 167-186)

    Chaucer’s “masterpiece of reality ... [his] verisimilitude of artificiality,”¹ achieved in hisTale of Sir Thopas, marks the pinnacle of his costume rhetoric deployed to comic effect and even to the point of “overkill.”²Thopas,with its two complete costumes for its inept knight, outdoes even theMiller’s Tale’sfulsome portrait of Alison, an elderly artisan’s wanton young wife, and her overreaching embroidery; and it more than outshines theReeve’s Tale’s description of colorful peasant Sunday dress and excessive armaments.

    In tracing Chaucer’s overall pattern of usage, theGeneral Prologue(GP) to theCanterbury Talesproves his mastery of literary...

  14. Appendix A Timeline of Processions – Some Having Street Drapery
    (pp. 187-193)
  15. Appendix B Processions to Tournaments
    (pp. 194-196)
  16. Appendix C
    (pp. 197-198)
  17. Appendix D
    (pp. 199-200)
  18. Works Cited
    (pp. 201-222)
  19. Index
    (pp. 223-232)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-237)