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Gender and Romance in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Crane, Susan

Chaucer's relation to English and French romances of the late Middle Ages is well recognized but not often studied in depth. This study shows that Chaucer's depictions of masculinity and femininity constitute an extensive and sympathetic response to the genre. For Chaucer, gender is the defining concern of romance. As the foundational narratives of courtship, romances participate in the late medieval elaboration of new meanings around heterosexual identity. Crane draws on feminist and genre theory to argue that Chaucer's profound interest in the cultural construction of masculinity and femininity arises in large part from his experience of romance. In depicting the maturation of young women and men, romances stage an ideology of identity that is based in gender difference. Less obviously gendered concerns of romance--social hierarchy, magic, and adventure--are also involved in expressing femininity and masculinity. The genders prove to be not simply binary opposites but overlapping and shifting coreferents. Precarious social standing can carry a feminine taint; women's adventures recall but also contradict those of men. Chaucer's redeployments of romance are particularly sensitive to the crucial place gender holds in the genre.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Publisher
Princeton University Press
Published Here
November 10, 2016