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Narrative, Authority and Power


  • Page extent: 392 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.592 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521044257)

Little attention has been paid to the political and ideological significance of the exemplum, a brief narrative form used to illustrate a moral. Through a study of four major works in the Chaucerian tradition (The Canterbury Tales, John Gower's Confessio Amantis, Thomas Hoccleve's Regement of Princes, and Lydgate's Fall of Princes), Scanlon redefines the exemplum as a 'narrative enactment of cultural authority'. He traces its development through the two strands of the medieval Latin tradition which the Chaucerians appropriate: the sermon exemplum, and the public exemplum of the Mirrors of Princes. In so doing, he reveals how Chaucer and his successors used these two forms of exemplum to explore the differences between clerical authority and lay power, and to establish the moral and cultural authority of their emergent vernacular tradition.

• An in-depth study of the ideological and political significance of the exemplum and its use within the Chaucerian tradition • Combines detailed analysis of four major later Middle English poems with an overview of the Latin tradition which preceded them


Acknowledgements; Introduction: Exemplarity and Authority in the Middle Ages: 1. Chaucer's Parson; 2. Redefining the exemplum: narrative, ideology and subjectivity; 3. Auctoritas and potestas: a model of analysis for medieval culture; Part I. The Latin Tradition: 4. The sermon exemplum; 5. The public exemplum; Part II. The Chaucerian Tradition: 6. Exemplarity and the Chaucerian tradition; 7. Canterbury Tales (I): from preacher to prince; 8. Canterbury Tales (II): from preaching to poetry; 9. Bad examples: Gower's Confessio Amantis; 10. The Chaucerian tradition in the fifteenth century; Bibliography; Index.

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