Rethinking Chaucer's Legend of Good Women

Rethinking Chaucer's Legend of Good Women

Carolyn P. Collette


York Medieval Press



A fresh reading of the Legend shows it to be one of Chaucer's most carefully crafted and significant works.
"Professor Collette's approach to this challenging and provocative poem reflects her wide scholarly interests, her expertise in the area of representations of women in late medieval European society, and her conviction that the Legend of Good Women can be better understood when positioned within several of the era's intellectual concerns and historical contexts. The book will enrich the ongoing conversation among Chaucerians as to the significance of the Legend, both as an individual cultural production and an important constituent of Chaucer's poetic.achievement. A praiseworthy and useful monograph." Professor Robert Hanning, Columbia University.

The Legend of Good Women has perhaps not always had the appreciation or attention it deserves. Here, it is read as one of Chaucer's major texts, a thematically and artistically sophisticated work whose veneer of transparency and narrow focus masks a vital inquiry into basic questions of value, moderation, and sincerity in late medieval culture. The volume places Chaucer within several literary contexts developed in separate chapters: early humanist bibliophilia, translation and the development of the vernacular; late medieval compendia of exemplary narratives centred in women's choices written by Boccaccio, Machaut, Gower and Christine de Pizan; and the pervasive late fourteenth-century cultural influence of Aristotelian ideas of the mean, moderation, and value, focusing on Oresme's translations of the Ethics into French. It concludes with two chapters on the context of Chaucer's continual reconsideration of issues of exchange, moderation and fidelity apparent in thematic, figurative and semantic connections that link the Legend both to Troilus and Criseyde and to the women of The Canterbury Tales.

Carolyn Collette is Emeritus Professor of English Language and Literature at Mount Holyoke College and a Research Associate at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York.


March 2014
184 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781903153499
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
York Medieval Press
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004120, LIT004130
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

Love of Books
Exemplary Women
As Etik seith: Aristotelian Ideas in the Legend
Women in Love: on the Unity of The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde
A New Paradigm: Comedy and the Individual


Rather than celebrating the Legend as a fragmented collection . . . Collette resituates the tales in multiple contexts. . . . Seen from this perspective, the Legend is less isolated and more central to understanding Chaucer's developing poetic imagination. SHARP NEWS

Collette presents a logical and articulate argument for reconsidering the conventional wisdom surrounding the Legend. . . . The repositioning of the Legend in the broader contexts of both early humanism and Chaucer's approach to presenting women and feminine concerns in his corpus is a valuable contribution to a feminist discussion of the text. MEDIEVAL FEMINIST FORUM

By offering provocative statements, unusual humanist contexts, and tantalizing "possible foci" in order to stimulate further scholarship, and by arguing persuasively that the Legend should be considered in relation to the Canterbury Tales, Collette has broadened the scope of future discussions of Chaucer's literary heroines. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

Contains thoughtful and persuasive readings, attentive discussion of poetic effects and an interesting new contextualization of this often overlooked text. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

Collette's meticulous scholarship both develops new contexts for studying the Legend and casts a fresh eye on its content and positioning within Chaucer's corpus. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

This book serves as an excellent introduction to major (and sometimes shared) themes and contexts within Chaucer's text. CHOICE

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