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3. The Prologue: The Pro-Feminist Case
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the extent to which the Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale should be read as a pro-feminist text, focusing in particular on the sheer length of the Wife of Bath's Prologue her life outside the text (both within and beyond the Canterbury Tales), her rebuttal – both implicit and explicit – of misogynistic writers such as St Jerome, the importance of the extensive marginal notes on early manuscripts of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tales, and the emergence of other female voices in this period, including Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and Christine de Pizan.
In this course, Professor Marion Turner (University of Oxford) explores The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, part of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. We begin by thinking about the portrait of the Wife of Bath in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales, focusing in particular on the extent to which the Wife of Bath resembles a real historical woman, as well as on some of the literary tropes that Chaucer has drawn on to flesh out her character. After that, in the second and third modules, we turn to the Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale, and think about whether it should be read as an anti-feminist or pro-feminist text. In the fourth module, we think about the Wife of Bath's Tale itself, and consider the extent to which Chaucer has reworked the traditional genre of Romance. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the ethical interests of the Wife of Bath's Tale, focusing in particular on the role of women in delivering the ethical message of the Tale, and on the Loathly Lady's famous account of 'gentilesse' as a characteristic that is not inherited but earned.
Marion Turner is Associate Professor of English at Jesus College, University of Oxford. She is the author of a ground-breaking biography of Chaucer: Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton, 2019).
This biography focuses on Chaucer as an international figure, exploring his travels, his multicultural influences, his multilingual identity, and the global aspects of medieval London.
Her other books include Chaucerian Conflict (Oxford, 2007) and, as editor, A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and she has published many articles on Chaucer and other aspects of late medieval literature. Marion has received research funding from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Wellcome Trust. She often speaks in the media, including Radio 4, BBC1, Channel 4, and ITV. She has a particular interest in outreach, taking part in Chaucer Days at the Ashmolean Museum and the Weston Library, aimed at sixth form students of Chaucer, and often speaking at schools and colleges.
Cite this Lecture
Turner, M. (2019, January 14). Chaucer: The Wife of Bath's Tale - The Prologue: The Pro-Feminist Case [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/chaucer-the-wife-of-bath-s-prologue-and-tale-5f5d5b36-fe62-4f23-bd72-237d58cfadd4/the-prologue-the-pro-feminist-case
Turner, M. "Chaucer: The Wife of Bath's Tale – The Prologue: The Pro-Feminist Case." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jan 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/chaucer-the-wife-of-bath-s-prologue-and-tale-5f5d5b36-fe62-4f23-bd72-237d58cfadd4/the-prologue-the-pro-feminist-case