Thursday, December 05, 2013

When is the when of the Physician’s Tale?

Still more Richard Serra at Gagogian
Yet more Serra at, of course, the Gagosian. When is the when of a piece that corrodes?
by KARL STEEL

Great comments below in response to my little post on sympathy and anthropomorphism. Read them. I hope to respond to them soon. Today, though, is grading and drafting a grant proposal.

In re: grading, just wrote this comment in response to one of several paper proposals on the Physician’s Tale and what it says about gender relations in Chaucer’s time:

The question here is which time : after all, Chaucer is writing historical fiction, as were his sources. Livy, who wrote the original story in the 1st century, himself set it in Republican Rome, centuries before he lived. Then some 1300 years later, the Romance of the Rose translated the story into French verse, and then 150 or so years still later, Chaucer used that story to write his tale, while citing Livy, who had lived roughly 1400 years before him.
So when is the when of the Physician’s Tale? What era is this story talking about?

2 comments:

TheFishInPrison said...

A good question!

I came across an interesting contemporary retelling of the Physician's Tale in a short story collection called Canterbury 2100, where it becomes transformed into "The Doctor's Tale." In order to make the basic narrative "work" for a modern audience, the author is forced to set the tale in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-type landscape. Chaucer's displacement of the narrative into the vague past that you're gesturing at -- the place where such abuse-prone legal systems and grim honor codes can exist -- is perfectly mirrored in the author's own displacement of the narrative into a vague future-past.

I've written slightly more on the story here, 135-136: https://www.academia.edu/4632553/Flying_Chaucers_Insectile_Ecclesiasts_and_Pilgrims_Through_Space_and_Time_The_Science_Fiction_Chaucer.

-Tim

Karl Steel said...

Tim, that article looks AMAZING. I've just recommended it to two students writing about Chaucer and fan fiction, and I'm really looking forward to reading it myself.

One thing I've stressed about the Physician's Tale with my students is that, of course, the equation of 'lost innocence' with 'lost virginity' for girls, the equation of honor with virginity for same, is hardly only medieval and hardly only dystopian, unless we recognize our own present as dystopian too. It's a wonderful tale, in other words, for combating our smug sense of superiority to the so-called past, whenever that was.