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Chaucer’s Choices

Through the looking-glass of medieval imagery


Katarzyna Stadnik

The monograph discusses the relation between language and visual culture, focusing on two Chaucerian narratives, «Knight’s Tale» and «Troilus and Criseyde». The study highlights the significance of the continuity of imagery in language and material culture for cultural transmission, providing insights into the relation between Chaucer’s linguistic usage and the late medieval symbolic tradition. Undertaken within the Cognitive Linguistic framework, the research indicates the usefulness of adopting a panchronic perspective on the development of language and culture.
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5. Imagery of necessite in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight’s Tale


5. Imagery of necessite in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight’s Tale

In the monograph, we explore the issue of how linguistic and visual resources serve the function of complementary memory carriers. We have proposed that language and visual culture allow the mediation of the community’s cumulative knowledge, and a prominent role in the process has been ascribed to the image, whether linguistic or material.

In this way, Chaucer’s TRC and KT come to be regarded as imaginaria of the late medieval mind, for the poet’s imagery can be argued to have derived its contents from the contemporary symbolic tradition. By evoking pagan antiquity, Chaucer vivifies the world of heathen past (cf. Minnis 1982, 2014). This enables him to tackle various issues concerning the human condition, such as necessity vis-à-vis the freedom of choice. Since the narratives unfold in the pagan setting, the question pertinent to the status of human free will in the changeable world is set against the backdrop of pagan fatalism connected with astral determinism. Yet, this conception is clearly at odds with the Christian belief in human free will and responsibility for one’s deeds. It thus follows that the issue of visibility entails the problem of invisibility. That is, the late medieval, Christian viewpoint of the poet can be concealed, being veiled in heathen imagery. Given the continuity of the imagery, the image may be regarded as a carrier of values and beliefs that permeate a culture at a given...

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