Political Chaucer

  • William McClellan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This book introduces a political approach to reading Chaucer, contending that key tales present an examination of the destructive effects of sovereign power on the human subject. After a brief discussion of the Clerk’s Tale and the Prioress’s Tale, the point is made that scholars have overlooked Chaucer’s scrutiny of this fundamental political relation. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben and Primo Levi, it is asserted that the Holocaust has ushered in a new ethics that affects our reading of traditional literature. Adapting Walter Benjamin’s concept of constellation, this chapter offers a new paradigm that helps us read these tales in a more proximate way, one that, while taking account of Chaucer’s historical context, abridges the distance between him and us and makes possible “reading-history-as-ethical-meditation.”


Political approach to Chaucer Agamben’s political theory Primo Levi memoir Walter Benjamin constellation New reading paradigm History as ethical meditation 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • William McClellan
    • 1
  1. 1.Baruch College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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