Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

John Bowers

Number of Pages



Chaucer and the Politics of Penance argues for a Chaucerian fusion of penitential values with Wycliffite ideals in the 1390s. The historical setting for this study is the political crisis of 1388 and the political agenda that Richard II employs in the 1390s in an attempt to reassert an image of royal legitimacy and power. The case is made that Chaucer critiques Ricardian autocracy by employing penitential discourse as a possible corrective to Richard's exemplarism or use of positive exempla to suppress political dissent. Chaucer is joined in this emphasis on the politics of penance by the Carmelite Richard Maidstone whose 1390s account of Richard II's London re-entry pageant similarly employs penance to warn the king of the dangers inherent to exemplary politics or a political program that exaggerates the king's virtues. In Chaucer's Legend of Good Women penitential values merge with Lollard translation values to produce Chaucer's concept of the "naked" text, a literary program that imagines how penance and heresy might be used to invent English as a literary language. This program finds further expression in Chaucer Canterbury Tales where the figure of the Parson combines Lollardy with penance to hopefully release Chaucer from both orthodox and heretical ideologies to pursue a literature of penitential humility and heretical independence.


Canterbury Tales; Chaucer; Chaucer, Geoffrey; England; Geoffrey Chaucer; Penance; Politics

Controlled Subject

Literature, Medieval; British literature; English literature--Irish authors; Irish literature

File Format


File Size

4710.4 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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