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CHAUCERIAN PHYSIOGNOMY AND THE DELINEATION OF THE ENGLISH INDIVIDUAL

by Orth, William Patrick

Abstract (Summary)
The unique question my thesis addresses can be stated thusly: Why does physiognomy appear—suddenly and forcefully—as a discursive component of character development in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales? When examined against contemporary literary texts (i.e. Jean de Meun, John Gower and Giovanni Boccaccio) no similar implements of narrative “marking” work, as they do in the Canterbury Tales, to physically and accurately ground causal linkages between behavior and the individual. My thesis argues for three possible explanations: the 12th/13th century reemergence of Aristotelian empiricism and its subsequent effect on philosophers such as Duns Scotus and William Ockham; the increasingly ornate (and politicized) aesthetics of High Gothic art and architecture; and, finally, an emerging impulse towards decolonizing the English nation. I also offer the argument that Chaucerian physiognomy might very well operate—conterminously with the aforementioned influences—as a mode of class interpellation.
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Advisor:

School:Miami University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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