The English Subject

Ardis Butterfield

in The Familiar Enemy

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574865
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722127 | DOI:
The English Subject

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This chapter investigates the role widely ascribed to The Book of the Duchess, Chaucer's first surviving narrative poem, as a polemically ‘English’ work. It sees it instead as the product of a francophone reader working within a multilingual, international environment. Rather than see Chaucer as ‘English’ in resistance to ‘French’, we can develop a more subtle appreciation of the ways in which cultural meanings pass from one language into another. The Book of the Duchess is compared with Machaut and Froissart, the Rose, and the Anglo‐Franco‐Italian transpositions of Boethius in Troilus and Criseyde. What modern critics conventionally herald as the new subjectivity of Chaucer's love vision is reassessed in terms of an overt, and long‐standing debate about English and its capacity to express a discourse of subjective desire in the face of French's acknowledged subtlety. It concludes with the hybrid Anglo‐French poet Charles d'Orléans.

Keywords: Chaucer; Machaut; Froissart; Le Roman de la Rose; Book of the Duchess; Charles d'Orléans; subjectivity; love vision

Chapter.  17844 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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