Advertisement

Ecophobia and the Knight’s Tale

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

Abstract

This chapter discusses the Knight’s remarkable anxiety about nonhumans. The Knight’s Tale represents nature as a scary place, the object of ecophobia. The tale imagines humankind forever endangered by bestial chaos. Yet while Chaucer aggravates the luridness of his main source, Boccaccio’s Teseida, he also emphasizes the artificiality of the Knight’s storytelling. The artificiality renders the tale’s ecophobia ironic. A close reading reveals that fear of nonhumans is predominantly irrational in this tale: humans emerge as by far the most violent species, an extravagant threat to nonhuman life. Chaucer’s allegorical description of visual art works arouses fear of nature but also discloses the arbitrariness of such fear. The tale’s puns and play with letters further undermine ecophobic ideology.

References

  1. Bate, Jonathan. 2000. The song of the Earth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Boccaccio, Giovanni. 2005. Il libro chiamato “Teseo”. In Sources and analogues of the Canterbury Tales, ed. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, vol. 2, 136–215. Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  3. Bryan, Jennifer. 2016. “A berd! a berd!”: Chaucer’s Miller and the poetics of the pun. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 38: 1–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bryant, Levi R. 2013. Black. In Prismatic ecology: Ecotheory beyond green, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, 290–310. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryson, Norman. 1983. Vision and painting: The logic of the gaze. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Burger, Glenn. 2000. Erotic discipline … or “tee hee, I like my boys to be girls”: Inventing with the body in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale. In Becoming male in the Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler, 245–260. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  7. Chance, Jane. 2002. Representing rebellion: The ending of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and the castration of Saturn. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 38: 75–92.Google Scholar
  8. Chaucer, Geoffrey. 1987. The Riverside Chaucer. Edited by Larry D. Benson. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. 2003. Medieval identity machines. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2008. Inventing with animals in the Middle Ages. In Engaging with nature: Essays on the natural world in medieval and early modern Europe, ed. Barbara A. Hanawalt and Lisa J. Kiser, 40–62. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2015. Stone: An ecology of the inhuman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collette, Carolyn. 2001. Species, phantasms, and images: Vision and medieval psychology in “The Canterbury Tales”. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delany, Sheila. 1992. Techniques of alienation in Troilus and Criseyde. In Chaucer’s “Troilus and Criseyde”: “Subgit to alle poesye”: Essays in criticism, ed. R.A. Shoaf, 29–46. Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton.Google Scholar
  14. de Man, Paul. 1983. Blindness and insight: Essays in the rhetoric of contemporary criticism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 1984. The rhetoric of Romanticism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 1986. The resistance to theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  17. de Ronsard, Pierre. 1964. Les amours. Edited by Albert-Marie Schmidt. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  18. Douglass, Rebecca M. 2000. Ecocriticism and Middle English literature. In Medievalism and the academy II: Cultural studies, ed. David Metzger, 136–163. Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  19. duBois, Page. 1982. History, rhetorical description and the epic: From Homer to Spenser. Cambridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer.Google Scholar
  20. Edgar, Swift, and Angela M. Kinney, eds. 2010–13. The Vulgate Bible. 6 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Edwards, Elizabeth B. 2008. Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and the work of mourning. Exemplaria 20 (4): 361–384. https://doi.org/10.1179/175330708X371410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Epstein, Robert. 2006. “With many a floryn he the hewes boghte”: Ekphrasis and symbolic violence in the Knight’s Tale. Philological Quarterly 85 (1–2): 49–68.Google Scholar
  23. Erwin, Bonnie J. 2017. Beyond mastery: Interspecies apprenticeship in Middle English romance. Exemplaria 29 (1): 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Estok, Simon C. 2011. Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading ecophobia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ———. 2013a. The ecophobia hypothesis: Re-membering the feminist body of ecocriticism. In International perspectives in feminist ecocriticism, ed. Greta Gaard, Simon Estok, and Serpil Oppermann, 70–83. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2013b. Terror and ecophobia. Frame 26 (2): 87–100.Google Scholar
  27. Eyler, Joshua R., and John P. Sexton. 2006. Once more to the grove: A note on symbolic space in the Knight’s Tale. Chaucer Review 40 (4): 433–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Finnegan, Robert Emmett. 2009. A curious condition of being: The city and the grove in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. Studies in Philology 106 (3): 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fumo, Jamie C. 2013. The pestilential gaze: From epidemiology to erotomania in The Knight’s Tale. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 35: 85–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Garrard, Greg. 2004. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Goldberg, Sylvan. 2015. “What is it about you … that so irritates me?”: Northern Exposure’s sustainable feeling. In New international voices in ecocriticism, ed. Serpil Oppermann, 55–70. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  32. Grimes, Jodi. 2012. Arboreal politics in the Knight’s Tale. Chaucer Review 46 (3): 340–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haidu, Peter. 1993. The subject of violence: The “Song of Roland” and the birth of the state. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.Google Scholar
  34. Hansen, Elaine Tuttle. 1992. Chaucer and the fictions of gender. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying with the trouble: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene. In Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism, ed. Jason W. Moore, 34–76. Oakland, CA: PM Press.Google Scholar
  36. Heffernan, James A.W. 1996. Entering the museum of words: Browning’s “My Last Duchess” and twentieth-century ekphrasis. In Icons –Texts – Iconotexts: Essays on ekphrasis and intermediality, ed. Peter Wagner, 262–280. Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  37. Howes, Laura L. 2014. Chaucer’s forests, parks, and groves. Chaucer Review 49 (1): 125–133. https://doi.org/10.1353/cr.2014.0023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hunter, Brooke. 2011. Remenants of things past: Memory and the Knight’s Tale. Exemplaria 23 (2): 126–146. https://doi.org/10.1179/104125711X12946752336145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Johnson, Lynn Staley. 1991. The trope of the scribe and the question of literary authority in the works of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Speculum 66 (4): 820–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelly, Henry Ansgar. 1977. Occupatio as negative narration: A mistake for occultatio/praeteritio. Modern Philology 74 (3): 311–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kelly, Kathleen Coyne, and Marina Leslie. 1999. Introduction: The epistemology of virginity. In Menacing virgins: Representing virginity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Marina Leslie, 15–25. Newark: University of Delaware Press.Google Scholar
  42. Kolve, V.A. 1984. Chaucer and the imagery of narrative: The first five Canterbury Tales. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Leicester, H. Marshall, Jr. 1990. The disenchanted self: Representing the subject in the Canterbury Tales. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  44. Mancuso, Stephano, and Alessandra Viola. 2015. Brilliant green: The surprising history and science of plant intelligence. Translated by Joan Benham. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  45. Miller, Mark. 2004. Philosophical Chaucer: Love, sex, and agency in the “Canterbury Tales”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Morton, Timothy. 2007. Ecology without nature: Rethinking environmental aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  47. ———. 2016. Dark ecology: For a logic of future coexistence. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mounts, Charles E. 1939. Spenser’s seven bead-men and the corporal works of mercy. PMLA 54 (4): 974–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Neuse, Richard. 1962. The Knight: The first mover in Chaucer’s human comedy. University of Toronto Quarterly 31 (3): 299–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. O’Brien, Timothy D. 1998. Fire and blood: “Queynte” imaginings in Diana’s temple. Chaucer Review 33 (2): 157–167.Google Scholar
  51. Ovid. 2004. Metamorphoses. Translated by Frank Justus Miller. Rev. G.P. Goold. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Patterson, Lee. 1991. Chaucer and the subject of history. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  53. Paxson, James J. 2007. The anachronism of imagining film in the Middle Ages: Wegener’s Der Golem and Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. Exemplaria 19 (2): 290–309. https://doi.org/10.1179/175330707X212877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pluskowski, Aleks. 2010. The zooarchaeology of medieval “Christendom”: Ideology, the treatment of animals and the making of medieval Europe. World Archeology 42 (2): 201–214. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438241003672815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pugh, Tison. 2014. Chaucer’s (anti-)eroticisms and the queer Middle Ages. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Rudd, Gillian. 2007. Greenery: Ecocritical readings of late medieval English literature. Manchester: University of Manchester Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schildgen, Brenda Deen. 2013. Reception, elegy, and eco-awareness: Trees in Statius, Boccaccio, and Chaucer. Comparative Literature 65 (1): 85–100. https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2019302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shimomura, Sachi. 2013. The walking dead in the Knight’s Tale. Chaucer Review 48 (1): 1–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Spearing, A.C. 1993. The medieval poet as voyeur: Looking and listening in medieval love-narratives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. ———. 2005. Textual subjectivity: The encoding of subjectivity in medieval narratives and lyrics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Statius. 2003. Thebaid. Edited and translated by D.R. Shackleton Bailey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Steel, Karl. 2011. How to make a human: Animals and violence in the Middle Ages. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar
  63. ———. 2012. A fourteenth-century ecology: “The Former Age” with Dindimus. In Rethinking Chaucerian beasts, ed. Carolynn Van Dyke, 185–199. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Van Dyke, Carolynn. 2005. Chaucer’s agents: Cause and representation in Chaucerian narrative. Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Wallace, David. 1997. Chaucerian polity: Absolutist lineages and associational forms in England and Italy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Warminski, Andrzej. 2013. Material inscriptions: Rhetorical reading in practice and theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Warren, Michael J. 2016. “Kek kek”: Translating birds in Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 38: 109–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wheatley, Edward. 2009. Murderous sows in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and late fourteenth-century France. Chaucer Review 44 (2): 224–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. White, Hugh. 2000. Nature, sex, and goodness in a medieval literary tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wickham, Chris. 1990. European forests in the early Middle Ages: Landscape and land clearance. In L’ambiente vegetale nell’alto medioevo, vol. 2, 479–545. Spoleto: Presso la sede del Centro.Google Scholar
  71. Withers, Jeremy. 2012. “A beest may al his lust fulfille”: Naturalizing chivalric violence in Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale”. In Rethinking Chaucerian beasts, ed. Carolynn Van Dyke, 173–183. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yamamoto, Dorothy. 2000. The boundaries of the human in medieval English literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations