Award Date

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Committee Member

John Bowers, Chair

Second Committee Member

Philip Rusche

Third Committee Member

Julie Staggers

Graduate Faculty Representative

Elspeth Whitney

Number of Pages

628

Abstract

Middle English romance has never attained critical respectability, dismissed as ―"vayn carpynge" in its own age and treated as a junk-food form of medieval literature or kidnapped for political or psychoanalytical readings. Chaucer‘s Tale of Sir Thopas has been explained as an acidly sarcastic satire of the romances‘ supposedly clichéd formulas and poetically unskilled authors. Yet such assumptions require investigation of how Chaucer and his ostensible audience might have viewed romance as a genre. Chaucer‘s likely use of the Auchinleck manuscript forms a convenient basis for examination of the romances listed in Thopas. With the aid of a modern translation, the poems turn out to form a rich interplay of symbolical, theological, and historical meanings. Viewed in a more sensitive light, the Middle English romances in turn give Thopas new meaning as a poem written affectionately to parody romance but chiefly to effect a humorous contrast. Rather than condemning romances, Chaucer uses their best examples to heighten Thopas‘ comic impotence as a knight and to provide self-deprecating carnival laughter at Chaucer the narrator‘s failed story

Keywords

Auchinleck; Auchinleck manuscript; Chaucer; Geoffrey; d. 1400; English literature – Middle English; Romances; English; Sir Thopas

Disciplines

Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval Studies

Language

English


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