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The Summoner’s Tale

“THE summoner’s prologue and tale”: Gendered and sexual identities

ruth evans

ESSAY CHAPTER FOR THE OPEN ACCESS COMPANION TO THE CANTERBURY TALES, DRAFT POSTED FOR OPEN REVIEW september 2016

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The Summoner’s Tale is one of the most memorable of The Canterbury Tales. Most readers remember its exquisitely comic dénouement, in which a young squire (the servant of a lord) proposes with mock-solemnity an ingenious solution to the mathematical problem of how to divide a fart, the “gift” of the squire’s lord’s parishioner Thomas to Friar John, between the thirteen friars of John’s convent: send it down the spokes of a cartwheel. The tale’s primary purpose is satiric: it ridicules the greed of friars, who were the frequent butt of fourteenth-century English satire. The fart-as-gift – which plays on the symbolic link between money and human waste, reinforcing what Larry Scanlon calls “the general association of friars with anal excretion” (1994, 161) – and the fart-division, punningly described by the lord as “ars-metrike [arithmetic/art of measuring/cul-culation]” (3.2212), put the tale firmly in the arena of scatology (toilet humor) rather than sex. So what have gender and sexuality to do with it?

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The short answer is that the tale’s satire is informed by popular antifraternal stereotypes in which widespread cultural resentment of the privileges enjoyed by friars is displaced onto negative stereotypes of their gender and sexual identity. It’s a dynamic that we’re familiar with today; the insult “fag” is an expression of anger, contempt, or anxiety that may or may not have anything to do with the sexual or gender identity of the feared, despised, or hated other. The anus in the Summoner’s Prologue and Tale has sexual as well as scatological connotations, and is also associated in the Middle Ages with greed and corruption: it metaphorically shits on friars because friars themselves are perceived to shit on others, but it also serves to taint friars by associating them with what Robert Mills calls the specter of sodomy, a specter that haunts male-male relations in the Middle Ages, and which, in Mills’s words, continues “to exert a spectral presence in the present” (2011, 57). By this, Mills means that our modern category of homosexuality is haunted by the medieval category of sodomy, rather than being continuous with it. In the Prologue and Tale sexual and gender identities intersect with constructions of the body, occupational role, social status, and religion, in ways that sometimes differ from current understandings of intersectionality, the straight-queer divide, and the plasticity of sexual and gender identities.

tools

antifraternal stereotypes I: Professional rivalry

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 3 In most manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, the Summoner’s Tale follows the Friar’s Tale, and they form a pair. The Friar baits the Summoner by telling a tale about a corrupt summoner, who is in cahoots with the devil. The Summoner gets even with an equally vicious tale, in which a greedy friar gets his come-uppance. “Quiting,” a Middle English term that means both repayment and retaliation, is an important dynamic in The Canterbury Tales (see the chapter on The Reeve’s Tale in this volume), and one that is homoerotically charged, in that professional rivalry also fuels the personal animosity between the Friar and the Summoner. Summoners called defendants to trial in ecclesiastical courts. They not only did the church’s dirty work, but they also issued false summonses and took bribes. One telling criticism is the complaint voiced by angry defendants before the Bishop of London’s commissary court in the fifteenth century: “all summoners are false whoresons, thieves … and false knaves” and the devil’s turd [is] in [their] master’s teeth.” (Forrest 2015, 428) Besides indicating popular contempt for summoners, the reference to the “devil’s turd” associates them with both Satan and shit.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Friars too were seen as in league with Satan. This was because as regular clergy they were in competition with secular clergy, due to the fact that in the late thirteenth century the pope authorized friars to perform many of the offices of parish priests, including preaching, burying the dead, and hearing confession. Friars professed to live a life of poverty and abstinence, but received money for performing these offices. Hence the stereotype of the greedy friar. In his Vox clamantis the poet John Gower, Chaucer’s contemporary, asserts: “There is God, there is the world, and there is the Devil Apostate, in whose ranks the friar bears a burden of sin … . [H]e submits to the Devil’s own yoke.” (1962, 190) A late fourteenth-century poem Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun states: “Ther shal no saule have rowm in helle [no soul shall have any room in hell], / of frers ther is such throng.” These associations are taken up in The Summoner’s Prologue’s vision of the friars that swarm out of Satan’s arse, a vision that interestingly conflates popular representations of both summoners and friars, reminding us that the tale-teller is as morally compromised as the subject of his tale.

interlude: Some terminology, and the difference history makes

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 3 Today we’d call the Summoner’s aggressive one-up-manship gender expression rather than gender identity. This distinction derives from contemporary transgender politics. Gender expression refers to the outward, culturally-determined signs of gender, such as behavior, clothing, appearance, and name, signs that are usually read in binary terms, as either masculine or feminine. Gender identity, in contrast, is my internal, deeply-held sense of my gender, which may be at odds with my biological sex, is self-determined, not visible to others, and may or may not be abiding: I may have been born a man, but inside I feel that I am a woman. Gender identities today are plural: not only masculine and feminine, but genderqueer, boi, bigender, transgender, transmasculine, nongender, agender, and many other terms besides. The categories of sexual identity today are similarly plural: straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual. Sexual identity usually relates to sexual object choice, and is separate from gender identity, and occasionally even from sexual orientation: the sex I was assigned at birth may be male, but I may identify as a woman (my gender identity), be attracted only to other women (my sexual orientation), and see myself as lesbian but also at times as pangender (my sexual identity).

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 But the distinction between gender identity and what has come to be known as sexual orientation in Western cultures is very recent (Mills 2015, 11). In the Middle Ages, “unnatural” sexual practices almost always threatened gender identity, as when the twelfth-century French theologian Alain de Lille indicts male-male sex: “The active sex shudders in disgrace as it sees itself degenerate into the passive sex. A man turned woman blackens the fair name of his sex.” (Alan of Lille, 1980, 67) A man taking the passive role in sex – who is penetrated – risks turning into a woman. The idea that one might wish to claim an “unnatural” sexual or gender identity for oneself, or that this identity might constitute an abiding “truth” of the self, would have made little sense to people in the Middle Ages. I say “for oneself,” because the sexual identities of medieval persons were largely non-self-defined (Salih 2002).

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 As the cultural historian Michel Foucault argued in the 1970s, our modern categories of sexual identities – homosexual, lesbian, pervert, and so on – were constructed in the late nineteenth-century, in medical and scientific discourses, such as sexology, psychoanalysis, and criminology. The categories functioned not only to classify sexual types but to regulate those that were seen as not doing their sex and gender right. These categories did not exist in the Middle Ages, and there was no identity politics as we understand it today (“lesbian and proud!”). Medieval virgins and sodomites might be considered as constituting self-defining identities (Holding It Straight), but people thought of themselves by and large (there are notable exceptions) as engaging in sexual behaviors, not as inhabiting sexual identities. This is Foucault’s famous distinction – rightly much contested (Gaunt 1996, 157) – between pre-nineteenth-century “acts” and post-nineteenth-century “identities”: “As defined by the ancient civil or canonical codes sodomy was a category of forbidden acts; their perpetrator was nothing more than the juridical subject of them.” By contrast, the homosexual emerged in the nineteenth century as “a personage, a past, a case history and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology.” (Foucault 1999, 43, emphasis mine). These classificatory labels (homosexual, gay, lesbian, etc.) were later assumed as positive identities, but the stigma that originally attached to them is in many contexts still there today: an important aspect of Mills’ notion of the specter of sodomy.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 The fact that our modern categories of gender and sexual identity do not precisely map onto medieval ones does not invalidate the usefulness of thinking about medieval texts through the prism of these modern categories. Their divergence from medieval understandings of gender and sex invites us to think about the “naturalness” or normality of today’s categories, and to reflect on the historical intersections of sex and gender with social role, religion, and genre. Ridiculing friars as womanizers and hinting that they engaged in queer practices, as the Summoner’s Prologue and Tale does, is typical of antifraternal satire, which is meant to be offensive. The Tale is also a fabliau: a popular, obscene narrative, sexual or scatological (or both), in which, frequently, a character with pretensions is taken down by a trickster figure, and which is often “concerned with the politics of gender and class.” (Scanlon 1994, 163) In Chaucer’s text genre crucially shapes the categories of gender and sexuality. Antifraternal satire is not the subjective expression by friars of their gender and sexual identity.

antifraternal stereotypes II: THE WOMANIZER

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Womanizing friar. Book of Hours (the calendar page for December), Nantes (?), 15th century. Bibliothèque de Genève, MS. lat. 33, fol. 12v.Womanizing friar. Book of Hours (the calendar page for December), Nantes (?), 15th century. Bibliothèque de Genève, MS. lat. 33, fol. 12v.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Friars made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but had a reputation for chasing women. In Chaucer’s General Prologue, the Friar is portrayed as acquisitive and a womanizer, able to extract a “ferthyng [farthing, a coin worth a quarter of a penny]” (1.255) from even a poor widow, and paying for the marriages of those women he’d made pregnant: “He hadde maad ful many a marriage / Of yonge women at his owene cost” (1.212-13). A barbed reference in The Wife of Bath’s Tale satirizes friars’ womanizing by ridiculing their sexual performance: “Wommen may go saufly [safely] up and doun. / In every bussh or under every tree / There is noon other incubus [spirit that has sex with women] but he, / And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour [he’ll only damage their reputation]” (3.888-91). In the criminal records of late medieval Winchester, friars are commonly listed as prostitutes’ clients (Geltner 2012, 99). And in his influential antifraternal polemical tract, the Defensio curatorum (1357), Richard FitzRalph, the Archbishop of Armagh, condemns friars for the thrill they derive from being “the privyeste counseile [most secret confidant] of wymmen”: a reference to friars’ abuse of the privilege of hearing confession in order to get close to women (FitzRalph 1925, 73).

antifraternal stereotypes III: THE Sodomitical friar

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Friars were also associated with sodomy, though the evidence is not as extensive as for their skirt-chasing. In the late fourteenth century, the dissident lollards accused friars of committing the “cursed synne of sodom” (Matthew 1880, 6). A macaronic poem (one that mingles two languages, in this case, English and Latin) of 1490, known as Freers, freers, wo ye be (Friars, friars, woe to you), briefly mentions that friars are as interested in a man’s son as in his wife and daughter: “Lat a ffreer off sum ordur, / tecum pernoctare / Odur thi wyff or thi doughtor / hic vult violare; / Or thi sun he weyl prefur, / sicut ffurtam ffortis [Let a friar of any order stay the night with you, and he’ll either want to rape your wife or daughter, or he’ll show a preference for your son, like a strong thief].” Sodomy in the Middle Ages, however, meant far more than male-male anal sex. It could refer to any kind of sex that was not between a man and a woman, or not intended for reproduction, such as masturbation, oral sex, bestiality, or sex between women. Indeed, sodomy could refer to all forms of inordinate desire. Foucault called sodomy “that utterly confused category” (1990, 101), by which he meant that in the premodern period in the west neither persons identified as sodomites nor sodomitical acts had any coherence or specificity. Sodomy was also a metaphor. Accusations of sodomy were used to slander religious dissidents, such as the lollards (Dinshaw 1999, 55-99) or the Knights Templar, one of whom is seen in the margins of a mid-fourteenth-century manuscript worshipping at and kissing an anus (Mills 2015, 275-6). The charge of sodomy was used to demonize religious others, such as Iberian Muslims (Hutcheson 2001).

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Friar fox. Hours of Yolande of Flanders, Paris, ca. 1353-1363. British Library, MS Yates Thompson 27, fol. 30r. Friars as wily, deceptive, and rapacious.Friar fox. Hours of Yolande of Flanders, Paris, ca. 1353-1363. British Library, MS Yates Thompson 27, fol. 30r. Friars as wily, deceptive, and rapacious.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 2 In medieval theology both sodomitical behaviors and greed were seen as types of luxuria, that is, transgressive desire. The proverbial gluttony and rapaciousness of friars was often associated with the anus as a site of evil and inversion (the overturning of hierarchies) (Beechy 2006, 74). In a famous Latin legal deposition recorded in London in 1394, a male prostitute passing as a woman, who went by the names of John and Eleanor Rykener, is reported as having committed “that detestable, unmentionable [Latin nephandum], and ignominious vice” (possibly code for male-male anal sex, but other “unnatural” sex acts might be intended; “unmentionable” because the Church feared that to give precise details would encourage people to try it) with two Franciscan friars, one Carmelite friar, and two foreign Franciscan friars (Karras and Boyd 1996, 111-12). Although this document cannot simply be treated as a statement of fact, because Rykener’s words are those of the recording clerk and because the circumstances of his arraignment are unclear, nevertheless this testimony seems to confirm the popular link between friars and what Tiffany Beechy calls “transgressive sexuality.” (2006, 74).

antifraternal stereotypes iV: confession and secret spaces

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Confession, in Rita Copeland’s words “invests broad social power and profound spiritual authority in the individual priest, powers that occupy both public and secret spaces” (Copeland 1999, 392; emphasis mine). Anxiety about friars’ usurpation of the priestly privilege of hearing of confession often translated into anxiety about their penetration into the secret spaces of the household – and its potential for sexual exploitation of women. It is seen in the poem Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun, which warns: “Ich man that here shal lede his life [each man alive], / That has a faire doghter or a wyfe, / Be war that no frer ham shryfe [that no friar hear their confession].” This anxiety is also evident in FitzRalph’s comment above, that friars had a role as “the privyeste counseile [most secret confidant] of wymmen.”

Text

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Insulted by the Friar’s association of summoners with the devil, and by his final ironic reference to hell as the “heritage” [spiritual inheritance] of summoners (3.1641), the Summoner gets even. He kicks off with a fable that puts friars right inside the devil’s arsehole. His Prologue’s terrifying, Bosch-like vision of 20,000 friars swarming out of Satan’s anus like bees “from an hyve” (3.1693), and returning to it, presents friars’ activity as infernal, excremental, furious, recursive, and (ironically) unproductive (and unreproductive). The Summoner’s moral is that a friar’s natural “heritage” (picking up the Friar’s reference) is to always have the devil’s arse in/on their mind. For Tison Pugh, this vision is “the utmost parody of sodomitical intercourse,” in which “the penetration is not merely that of the male member” but “of the male’s entire body and his whole fraternal order” (2004, 59). But I see this less as a direct reference to anal sex than as a satiric imagining of an “arsy-versy” (disordered, perverse) world in which friars, who outwardly profess obedience to God, are not only in league with the devil but infest the most private place of his anatomy. Yet the association of the anus with the private and with “unnatural” sexuality raises the specter of sodomy: friars, like sodomites, are shameful and abject.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Friar John’s schtick is to extract money from even the poorest person. The Tale brilliantly exposes how he does this (and fails), but it also reveals the motive behind the satire, namely the bitter turf wars between friars and the secular clergy. (The point of view of the Tale is, however, that of the laity.) The Tale alludes to three offices of parish priests that were also performed by friars – preaching, burying the dead, and confession. It opens with a reference to Friar John’s inciting “the peple in his prechyng / to trentals [to give money for thirty requiem masses sung for a soul in Purgatory]” (3.1716-7). The friar then enters a house he has often visited, that of a parishioner, Thomas, and tells Thomas’s wife that he has come to speak with her husband because “curatz” [parish priests] are “ful necgligent and slowe / To grope [examine] tendrely [with solicitous care] a conscience / In shrift [confession]” (3.1816-7). Secondly, we guess from his fulsomely bogus response to the wife’s casual mention of her child having died two weeks earlier while he was out of town (3.1852-3) that Friar John is chagrined to have missed the opportunity to earn money by burying the dead, but anxious to ingratiate himself with the wife. He assures her that he saw a vision of her child carried to heaven, that the whole convent prayed for the child, and that the prayers of friars are more “effectueel” [efficacious] (3.1870) than those of priests, because of their “poverte and … abstinence “ (3.1873). The Tale thus builds up a picture of a man who shapes his occupational identity – and thus gender identity – through his superiority to his rivals, an identity that is in turn shaped by the Tale’s genre as antifraternal satire and as fabliau. Our awareness of the shaping role of genre usefully reminds us that Friar John is made up of text, and that we do not have access to any sense of subjective gender identity.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 2 The stereotype of the womanizing friar further shapes the presentation of Friar John. There are hints that he is sexually interested in Thomas’s wife; when he enters the house, he “hire embraceth in his armes narwe [tightly]” – does he need to hold her quite so closely? – and “kiste hire sweete’ (3.1803-4), and flirts with her: “Yet saugh I nat [I didn’t see] this day so fair a wyf [woman] / In al the chirche” (3.1808-9). Professional and gender identity here satirically intersect. There is an undercurrent of inappropriate sexual suggestiveness in their pretentious banter (“‘Now, dame, … now je vous dy sanz doute …’” (3.1837)) and in the wife’s complaint that her sick husband does not respond to her sexual advances: “I may nat plese hym in no maner cas” (3.1831). Today we might describe such behavior as heterosexual and Chaucer’s text as heteronormative, that is, as reinforcing a cultural norm, but it doesn’t make much sense to talk of norms in the Middle Ages, because norms derive from the nineteenth-century science of statistics, although we can talk about the powerful medieval category of the “natural,” by which “proper” sexual behavior was judged. In any case, gender rather than sexual identity is at stake here: John’s flirtatiousness is a parody of male aristocratic gallantry that satirizes friars’ womanizing and their penetration into the space of the household. It is worth noting that the presentation of the wife’s gender and sexual identity is shaped by the clerical, antifeminist stereotype of the sex-hungry wife, a stereotype that also informs the Wife of Bath’s Prologue.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 4 Friar John gets his come-uppance in two stages. The first is when Thomas, tired of the friar’s schtick, promises to give him something, on the condition that John will divide it equally amongst the other friars. Thomas instructs him: “‘put in thy hand doun by my bak, / …and grope [feel] wel bihynde. / Bynethe my buttok there shaltow [you will] fynde / A thing that I have hyd in pryvetee [in a secret place].’” (3.2140-43) In Middle English, gropen can mean to examine someone’s conscience (the sense in which the friar intended it at 3.1817), but also to feel with the hand or fingers, touch, stroke, play with, or fondle: in other words, Thomas invites the Friar to caress his anus. Excited by the prospect of riches, the friar “doun his hand … launcheth [thrusts] to the clifte [cleft between the buttocks] / In hope for to find there a yifte [gift], / And whan this sike man felte this frere / Aboute his tuwel [anus] grope there and heere / Amydde his hand he leet the frere [let fly to the friar] a fart” (3.2145-49).

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The arsehole, in medieval culture as today, has an apotropaic function; that is, it wards off evil (think mooning on the battlefield, or the expression “kiss my ass’). Thomas wards off the friar’s evil by presenting him with his tuwel. In this sense the arsehole is desexualized: a social sign, not a sexual one. Yet the erotic connotations of gropen, and the reference to the buttocks (buttok, clifte) and the anus (pryvetee, tuwel) carry a mock-sodomitical innuendo, suggesting that Thomas is encouraging the friar to finger-fuck him. But it’s Thomas who effectively fucks the friar. It’s another of the Tale’s inversions of the bodily and social orders: arse on the mind; educated friar bested by a “cherle.”

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Friar John’s outraged complaint to the lord to whom he’s confessor that “this olde cherle” Thomas (3.2182) has blasphemed the convent is initially met with sympathy. The lady declares that “a cherl hath doon a cherles dede” (3.2206), essentializing Thomas’s gender and role identity (peasants will be peasants). But the lord’s grudging admiration for Thomas shows a sense that gender and role categories could be fluid: “How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun / To shewe swich a problem to the frere?” (3.2218-9). And while the aristocrat, in lofty scholastic fashion, diagnoses the logical and mathematical terms of the problem – the division of the fart is, he pronounces, “an inpossible” [a logical impossibility]” (3.2231), it is the young squire, lower in the social hierarchy, who most fully performs aristocratic masculinity by devising an elegant solution, which further mocks friars’ apostolic pretensions by being a parody of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (pneuma: divine breath/air) descends upon the twelve apostles. The squire is praised for his “subtiltee” (3. 2290), and awarded a new set of clothes, affirming that though only a lord’s servant he is smart beyond both his years and station: one of the ways in which Chaucer, who himself started his career as a squire, demonstrates the reality of social mobility, another important theme of The Canterbury Tales.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Finally, the lord provides one of the tale’s links between theme and poetic form in his observation that the “rumbling of a fart” and “every soun” are “but of eir [air] reverberacioun” (3.2233-4). Farting and speech are merely broken air. Concomitantly, the idea of inversion – friars’ improper overturning of social hierarchies – links sodomitical sex with the sliding signifier in what Catherine Cox calls “a narrative erotics” (1997, 117), from the friar’s wheedling demand for money (he complains to Thomas that they have barely finished building the convent’s “fundament [foundations, with a pun on arse/ass]” (3.2103)), to the dual senses of gropen as confession and caressing, to the lord’s “arse-metrike,” which links fart-division with the assy-metrical, the cul-culating, and the arsy-versy.

conclusion

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 I have argued that the gender and sexual identities in The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale are largely constructed by and through its twin genres of antifraternal critique and fabliau. This is one reason why the text can, apparently paradoxically, insinuate that friars are both womanizers and sodomites: the underlying motive for the critique is not the threat of their sexuality but that friars are seen as deeply inimical to the social order. Gender identity and sexual identity in the text are not clearly separate; behavior that we might consider heterosexual (a category of sexual identity), such as Friar John’s flirtatiousness, is more likely to have been seen then as an aspect of gender, one that intersects with social class and occupation. And because they are literary creations, the characters can never attest to an “authentic” sexual and gender identity.

transformation

  1. 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0
  2. Compare and contrast the portrait of the Friar in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (I.208-269) with the representation of Friar John in The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale.
  1. 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0
  2. Look up ars-metric in the OED. What are its meanings in the Middle Ages? Patricia Parker notes that in the early modern period “‘ars-metric’ is associated with Arabic learning and its backward writing” (2007, 42): there is a connection between inversion (arsy-versy), sex by the backdoor, and spelling backwards, as Jews and Muslims do. What is “ars-metrike” associated with in Chaucer’s text? What other wordplay is there in the The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale, and how does it contribute to the presentation of gender and sexual identities?
  1. 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0
  2. The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales hints at a close relationship between the Summoner and the Pardoner. How productive is it to read The Summoner’s Tale in conjunction with the portrait of the Pardoner and The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, and to think about how these tales figure relations between men and gender and sexual identities?
  1. 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0
  2. The Summoner’s Tale has been very little adapted for cinema, theater, or television. Suggest some reasons why. One notable exception is Pier Paolo Pasolini’s I racconti di Canterbury (1972), a film adaptation of eight of Chaucer’s tales, which concludes with The Summoner’s Tale. What does Pasolini’s interpretation of the tale add to your understanding of Chaucer’s text? Why do you think Pasolini was interested in this tale, and why in 1972?
  1. 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0
  2. In another obscene tale from The Canterbury Tales, The Miller’s Tale, the young scholar Nicholas lets fly a fart to humiliate his rival Absolon. Absolon, furious, plants a hot coulter (a tool used in ploughing) on what he believes to be the arse of his now hated beloved, Alison. In Robert Mills’s words, he “mistakenly directs his tool at the wrong object, … which effectively reorients his performance in a sodomitical direction” (Mills 2015, 277). To what extent do The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale reorient the narrative “in a sodomitical direction,” and with what aim? Are there any similarities between the way in which the fart is used within The Miller’s Tale and The Summoner’s Tale with respect to defining gender and sexual identities?
  1. 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0
  2. Suggest some reasons for why readers today are interested in gender and sexual identities in the past, even when they are presented negatively.

references and further reading

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Alan of Lille: The Plaint of Nature. Trans. James J. Sheridan. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1980.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Allen, Valerie. On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Late Middle Ages. The New Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Beechy, Tiffany. “Devil Take the Hindmost: Chaucer, John Gay, and the Pecuniary Anus.” The Chaucer Review 41.1 (2006): 71-85.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Copeland, Rita. “Confessional Texts.” The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Ed. David Wallace. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. 390-406.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Cox, Catherine S. Gender and Language in Chaucer. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1997.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Dinshaw, Carolyn. Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern. Durham: Duke, 1999.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Fitzralph, Richard. Defensio curatorum. Trans. John Trevisa. Ed. Aaron Jenkins Perry, EETS, OS 167. London Oxford UP, 1925.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Forrest, Ian. “The Summoner.” Historians on Chaucer: The ‘General Prologue’ to The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Stephen Rigby and Alastair Minnis. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. 421-442.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1990.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Gaunt, Simon. “Straight Minds/‘Queer’ Wishes in Old French Hagiography.” Premodern Sexualities. Eds. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero. New York and London: Routledge, 1996. 155-73.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Geltner, G. The Making of Medieval Antifraternalism: Polemic, Violence, Deviance, and Remembrance. New York: Oxford UP, 2012.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Gower, John. The Voice of One Crying. The Major Works of John Gower: The Voice of One Crying and The Tripartite Chronicle. Ed. Eric W. Stockton. Seattle: Uof Washington P, 1962.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Hutcheson, Gregory S. “The Sodomotic Moor: Queerness in the Narrative of Reconquista.” Queering the Middle Ages. Ed. Glenn Burger and Steven F Kruger. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001. 99-122.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Jordan, Mark, D. The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Karras, Ruth Mazo and David Lorenzo Boyd. “‘Ut cum muliere’: A Male Transvestite Prostitute in Fourteenth-Century London.” Premodern Sexualities. Eds. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero. New York and London: Routledge, 1996. 99-116.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Matthew, F. D. The English Works of Wyclif. EETS OS 74. London: Trübner, 1880.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Mills, Robert. “Homosexuality: Spectres of Sodom.” A Cultural History of Sexuality in the Middle Ages. Ed. Ruth Evans. Oxford: Berg, 2011. 57-80.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 2 Mills, Robert. Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Parker, Patricia. “Spelling Backwards.” Rhetoric, Women and Politics in Early Modern England. Ed. Jennifer Richards and Alison Thorne. London: Routledge, 2007. 25-50.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Pugh, Tison. Queering Medieval Genres. The New Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Salih, Sarah. “Sexual Identities: A Medieval Perspective.” Sodomy in Early Modern Europe. Ed. Tom Betteridge. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2002. 112–30.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Scanlon, Larry. Narrative, Authority, and Power: The Medieval Exemplum and the Chaucerian Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Szittya, Penn R. The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1986.

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