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Chaucerian Obscenity in the Court of Public Opinion

Chaucerian Obscenity in the Court of Public Opinion Chaucerian Obscenity in the Court of Public Opinion george g. shuffelton In academic writing over the past few decades, the adjective "Chaucerian" often modifies the word "irony" or other terms that imply his literary virtues. But in contemporary public discourse, the adjective more commonly refers to his legendary smuttiness. For example, when the pornographic film Debbie Does Dallas was turned into a musical for the stage, one theater critic described the resulting production as relying "on the Chaucerian tension of bawdiness, and the decidedly raunchy, to arrest and disturb."1 In a 1993 essay pondering the use of authors' names as adjectives, David Mills confidently defined "Chaucerian" as "bawdy in an acceptably Olde Englishe way," and much popular usage backs him up.2 This essay tries to take the casually alleged fact of Chaucer's obscenity seriously, and argues that this has become the defining feature of his reputation in the United States. Though the position of Chaucer's work within the American curriculum remains marginal, and his hold on the popular imagination even more tenuous, his legendary obscenity keeps his work in view. Chaucer's work, I hope to show, has been and remains one of the principal places our culture articulates http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Chaucer Review Penn State University Press

Chaucerian Obscenity in the Court of Public Opinion

The Chaucer Review , Volume 47 (1) – Jul 6, 2012

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University.
ISSN
1528-4204
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Abstract

Chaucerian Obscenity in the Court of Public Opinion george g. shuffelton In academic writing over the past few decades, the adjective "Chaucerian" often modifies the word "irony" or other terms that imply his literary virtues. But in contemporary public discourse, the adjective more commonly refers to his legendary smuttiness. For example, when the pornographic film Debbie Does Dallas was turned into a musical for the stage, one theater critic described the resulting production as relying "on the Chaucerian tension of bawdiness, and the decidedly raunchy, to arrest and disturb."1 In a 1993 essay pondering the use of authors' names as adjectives, David Mills confidently defined "Chaucerian" as "bawdy in an acceptably Olde Englishe way," and much popular usage backs him up.2 This essay tries to take the casually alleged fact of Chaucer's obscenity seriously, and argues that this has become the defining feature of his reputation in the United States. Though the position of Chaucer's work within the American curriculum remains marginal, and his hold on the popular imagination even more tenuous, his legendary obscenity keeps his work in view. Chaucer's work, I hope to show, has been and remains one of the principal places our culture articulates

Journal

The Chaucer ReviewPenn State University Press

Published: Jul 6, 2012

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