Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The Pardoner's present -- and future
Teach long enough and it is bound to happen: in the midst of pontificating along in your oh so hip and cutting edge Chaucer class, you realize that the handout you've been relying on to show how critically up to date you are actually demonstrates the opposite. You now hold a ticket to the Museum of Fossilized Xeroxes, and you realize you'll soon be interred in the Museum of Ossified Professors.
That happened to me today as I was teaching the Pardoner's Tale. Look at this thing (below): I'm stuck in the 90s! (Does VH1 produce a version of that for medievalists?). Some of my omissions are glaring: the psychoanalytic Pardoner that Patterson critiqued in Speculum; the Pardoner as incarnation of gender theory in Robert Sturges's book; the Pardoner as epistemological void from Dinshaw's Chaucer's Sexual Poetics. What other "recent" Pardoners am I missing? Has there ever been, for example, a postcolonial Pardoner?
Here's my Jurassic xerox. It's supposed to show the oscillations of love and hate that have always animated Pardoner scholarship.
Interpreting the Pardoner
1. "The one lost soul among the Canterbury pilgrims" (George Lyman Kittredge, "Chaucer's Pardoner," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 72, 1893, pp. 829-33)
2. eunuchus ex nativitate ["eunuch from birth"] (Walter Clyde Curry, Chaucer and the Medieval Sciences, 1926) [sympathy]
• "testicular pseudo-hermaphrodite of the feminine type" [Beryl Rowland, Neophilologus, 48, 1964, 56-60]
3. allegory for spiritual impotence (Robert P. Miller, "Chaucer's Pardoner, The Scriptural Eunuch, and the Pardoner's Tale," Speculum 30  180-89) [not sympathetic]
4. homosexual (Monica McAlpine, "The Pardoner's Homosexuality and How It Matters," PMLA 95  8-22; Steven Kruger, "Toward a gay reading of the Pardoner's Tale," Exemplaria 6 )
5. effeminate / randy and "enthusiastically heterosexual" (David Benson, "Chaucer's Pardoner: His Sexuality and Modern Critics," Medievalia 8 (1985 [for 1982]) 337-46; Richard F. Green, "The Sexual Normality of Chaucer's Pardoner," Medievalia 8 (1985 [for 1982]) 351-57; R. F. Green, "The pardoner's pants (and why they matter)," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 15 ).
6. queer (Glenn Burger, "Kissing the Pardoner," PMLA 107 )