Qui(n)te queer: ordinary queer identities in Chaucer's ordinary Canterbury Tales
LE3 .A278 2020
Bachelor of Arts
English & Theatre Studies
In this thesis, I fill the gaps in scholarship in the study of queerness within Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a very ordinary work, not in its excellence, but in its language, characters, and genres of stories. Chaucer is widely recognized as having popularized English as a literary language in a time where important documents and literature were written in the more formal languages of Latin and French. Chaucer's pilgrim characters are shockingly ordinary in comparison with the more popular tales of the court. As for genre, Chaucer does not include many romances, the genre of gentility, but instead, turns to the more common fabliau and sermon. Thus, as Chaucer writes about the ordinary pilgrims in ordinary English with ordinary genres, he would have included queer-identifying people. Recognizing the important work that has already been done with the Pardoner's non-heteronormativity, I look beyond the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath to fill in the gaps in scholarship. I look to the Knight's Tale, the Miller's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale, and especially the characters of Emelye, Alisoun, Nicholas, Absolon, the Sultaness, Donegild, Custance, and Hermengyld as further examples of the commonplace queerness within Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. In these three tales, all of which precede the commonly examined Pardoner’s Tale, Chaucer establishes a normalcy of queerness in mediaeval England and in the Tales. Queerness in the Canterbury Tales is not limited to homosexual desire, but encompasses the breaking of the gender binary, and many forms of non-heterosexuality. From these varied examples it is concluded that queerness was an ordinary facet of the everyday lives of ordinary pilgrims in Chaucer's day, and that this includes more characters than just the Pardoner – at least on the road from London to Canterbury.
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