The Unnatural Personifications of the Physician’s Tale

  • Shawn Normandin
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Although it posits supreme female beauty (Virginia) and personifies Nature as a supreme artist, Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale is an aesthetic failure. This divisive and ugly narrative’s anti-aesthetic method culminates in Virginia’s decapitation. Like many other Chaucerian texts, the Physician’s Tale shifts its attention from nature to human social problems, but the shift does not glorify humanity or justify its separation from nonhumans. The tale’s anti-aesthetic language victimizes its human characters, suspending them between history and allegory, a crisis resolvable only through unnatural violence. The chapter discusses virginity’s paradoxical status in medieval culture as something both natural and unnatural. This chapter draws support from Paul de Man’s theories of allegory and from Jacques Derrida’s identification of poetry with an urge to memorize.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shawn Normandin
    • 1
  1. 1.Sungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulKorea (Republic of)

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