Philosophical Chaucer: Love, Sex, and Agency in the by Mark Miller

By Mark Miller

Whereas so much Chaucer critics drawn to gender and sexuality have used psychoanalytic thought to research Chaucer's poetry, Mark Miller re-examines the hyperlinks among sexuality and the philosophical research of company in medieval texts comparable to the Canterbury stories, Boethius's comfort of Philosophy, and the Romance of the Rose. Chaucer's philosophical sophistication offers the root for a brand new interpretation of the rising notions of sexual hope and romantic love within the overdue heart a while.

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Oh that my soul might follow my own self . . 27 The occasion of Augustine’s lament is sexual. Specifically, it is his ongoing susceptibility to sexual imaginings and erotic dreams, accompanied by feelings of great pleasure and sometimes by nocturnal emissions, long after his conversion to Christianity and to a life of chastity. ’’28 One consequence of the figurative power that sexuality came to assume for Christian moral reflection was that the instabilities and opacities of psychic life tended to get associated with sexual desire and sexual fantasy, and sexual renunciation and virginity became central locations for expressing and thinking about the ambition of autonomy.

And yet there is still a great gap between myself and myself . . Oh that my soul might follow my own self . . 27 The occasion of Augustine’s lament is sexual. Specifically, it is his ongoing susceptibility to sexual imaginings and erotic dreams, accompanied by feelings of great pleasure and sometimes by nocturnal emissions, long after his conversion to Christianity and to a life of chastity. ’’28 One consequence of the figurative power that sexuality came to assume for Christian moral reflection was that the instabilities and opacities of psychic life tended to get associated with sexual desire and sexual fantasy, and sexual renunciation and virginity became central locations for expressing and thinking about the ambition of autonomy.

And that is essentially a philosophical project, even if, as was always the case for Chaucer, it is less directed than philosophy usually is towards the goal of saying what is true about the problems it investigates. 43 No doubt the Tales do reflect a stronger and more capacious interest in an analytics of politics and sociality than Chaucer’s earlier work. That is part of what makes the Tales so well suited to the study of ideological normalization. But we can begin to see why this interest in politics and sociality bears no necessary relation to a rejection of philosophy if we briefly turn to another familiar story about Chaucer, one that attempts to explain his concern with the analysis of political and social formations and of the subject positions of those who inhabit them.

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