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Chaucer, Ethics, and Gender$
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Alcuin Blamires

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199248674

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248674.001.0001

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Proprieties of Work and Speech: ‘The Second Nun's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Manciple's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, and ‘The Parson's Prologue’

Proprieties of Work and Speech: ‘The Second Nun's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Manciple's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, and ‘The Parson's Prologue’

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(p.207) 8 Proprieties of Work and Speech: ‘The Second Nun's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, ‘The Manciple's Prologue’ and ‘Tale’, and ‘The Parson's Prologue’
Source:
Chaucer, Ethics, and Gender
Author(s):

Alcuin Blamires (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248674.003.0009

The Tales draw to an end amidst antitheses between busy occupation and idleness or sloth. The Second Nun and her Tale dramatise a complex ideal of morally productive work. This chapter shows how the Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale contradicts that ideal through a misplaced ‘unfruitful’ obsession with inchoate fragmentary matter. Alchemy comes to represent hectically idle work (while at the same time it is gendered distinctively masculine). The twinning of these tales also concerns speech, its efficacy, or fruitlessness: the very question that takes centre stage in the last extant Canterbury Tales. ‘Sins of the tongue’ are not incidentals in the context of Chaucer’s poem. Rather, they constitute both the besetting vice and the imaginative inspiration of the entire tale-telling game.

Keywords:   work, idleness, sloth, alchemy, masculine, sins of the tongue

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