Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: Criseydan Conversations 1986-2002 A Narrative Bibliography
Taylor, William Joseph
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Conversations among scholars in the study of Chaucer have been essential in constructing the foundations on which we now stand. However, in light of recent pressures in the very competitive and practical aspects of academic life, the scholarly conversation is often lost amidst the desire to find any obscure point on which to publish simply for the reason that no one has yet said anything about it. There is certainly a usefulness to exploring all facets of Chaucer's work, but there is also a need to slough off the cumbersome coat of "publish-or-perish" scholarship in favor of carrying on a more meaningful conversation which may contribute to new readings or interpretations, epiphanies, or canon-altering revelations. This bibliography was begun for two purposes. First, as a bibliography, it was made to serve its users in a convenient and comprehensive manner. Second, it was made to illustrate the conversations of recent years, or lack thereof, among scholars concerned with the character and actions of Criseyde in the Troilus. Criseyde is arguably the quintessential character in Chaucer's works. She is wonderfully enigmatic, and her role in the Troilus spawned six hundred years of debate. The chapters which follow testify to the complexity of Criseyde. As she caught the eye of multiple authors from classical antiquity to the Elizabethan age, she continues to entice scholars to read and re-read her in various articles, chapters, and books. This is supported by the fact that nearly one quarter of all scholarship published (over four hundred works) on Troilus and Criseyde since 1986 deals expressly with Criseyde, herself. This bibliography is constructed as it is in the hope of providing a more convenient tool for scholars. The Riverside Chaucer serves as an adequate starting point because of its comprehensive compilation of notes and studies on Chaucer's works, including the Troilus. Since nothing of similar stature has appeared since, this bibliography will begin in 1986, the year in which the Riverside's compilation came to an end. Chapter 1 of this study looks at recent scholarship which examines the origins of Chaucer's Criseyde. While W.W. Skeat and R.K. Root provided us long ago with detailed lists and accounts of Chaucer's sources for the Troilus, today's scholars continue to make new additions to these, as well as new interpretations and readings which suggest further, new or different sources. The final chapter of this work examines the scholarship that reads Criseyde's role in the poem as a whole, not focusing on any one scene or act. Scholars such as David Aers and Jill Mann provide critiques on the nature of Criseyde from our initial sight of her in Book I to her final departure from the poem in Book V. Interestingly, recent scholarship on Criseyde tends to focus on one or more specific scenes in a specific book within the poem. Scholars deconstruct Criseyde's entrance at the Palladium in Book I, her reaction to Pandarus' goading her to love Troilus in Book II, or descriptions of her dress in the Greek camp in Book IV. Therefore, in structuring this bibliography, rather than focusing on themes, I sought to frame the scholarship with the poem's own narrative structure. Thus, chapters two, three, four, and five are comprised of scholarship that examines Books I, II, III, and Books IV and V of the Troilus. Users who question certain scenes in one of the poem's books can then look to the corresponding chapter of this bibliography to find whether scholars have conversed about the scene or scenes in question. In a sense, this bibliography examines Criseyde's existence prior to Chaucer's poem, her activity within Chaucer's poem, and her reputation upon exiting Chaucer's poem. This bibliography seeks to put scholarship together in such a way as to confirm whether or not scholars are continuing conversations about Chaucer's Criseyde. In many cases we find that conversations do exist and are carried forward. New landmarks in scholarship, for example Piero Boitani's edited collection The European Tragedy of the Troilus or David Aers' Community, Gender, and Individual Identity, are made apparent by the number of other scholars conversing on arguments and suggestions made by the contributing authors of these two works. Scholars pick up where their predecessors leave off in continuing arguments, patterns of interpretation, and close readings of Criseyde. Further, scholars begin new conversations. In some instances, both old and new conversations fail to move forward, whether by mischance or "entente." It is essential that we continue these colloquial discussions of scholarship as the critical scope of Chaucer studies widens, rather than rocketing forward as it did with the work of Skeat, Root, Donaldson, and Robertson in the early and mid twentieth-century. Certainly, we can disagree, but let us remember the ease with which C.S. Lewis discusses Medieval literature in his Discarded Image and the warmth of a conference session at MLA, NCS, or Kalamazoo, in which Chaucerians gather to move forward as one body rather than a mix of warring clans, prima donnas, or renegade dissenters. Scholarship aside, I offer this bibliography lastly to demonstrate the wonders of Chaucer's poetic arts and their chief exemplar, Criseyde.
- Masters Theses