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Contracts, Activist Feminism, and the Wife of Bath's Tale

Contracts, Activist Feminism, and the Wife of Bath's Tale <p>abstract:</p><p>In contrast to an enduring association of the law with hegemonic power, the <i>Wife of Bath&apos;s Tale</i> demonstrates the potential for legal practices to facilitate change, especially through tactical feminist coalition building. The tale does not promote the retributive model of justice associated with King Arthur&apos;s court, but embraces a vision of law, associated with the Queen and her female allies, that promotes social change through reeducation. Although elsewhere Chaucerian women are disempowered or objectified by the law, the tale&apos;s series of interlocking contracts empowers female agency rather than objectifying women. The shifting voices and audiences at the end present the contract as a tactic, not as a final solution to the precarity of women&apos;s safety or marital happiness. The lack of justice at the end of the tale—where a rapist is rewarded with a wife both faithful and fair—is a call to activism, not a vision of equity achieved.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Chaucer Review Penn State University Press

Contracts, Activist Feminism, and the Wife of Bath&apos;s Tale

The Chaucer Review , Volume 54 (3) – Jun 22, 2019

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

Abstract

<p>abstract:</p><p>In contrast to an enduring association of the law with hegemonic power, the <i>Wife of Bath&apos;s Tale</i> demonstrates the potential for legal practices to facilitate change, especially through tactical feminist coalition building. The tale does not promote the retributive model of justice associated with King Arthur&apos;s court, but embraces a vision of law, associated with the Queen and her female allies, that promotes social change through reeducation. Although elsewhere Chaucerian women are disempowered or objectified by the law, the tale&apos;s series of interlocking contracts empowers female agency rather than objectifying women. The shifting voices and audiences at the end present the contract as a tactic, not as a final solution to the precarity of women&apos;s safety or marital happiness. The lack of justice at the end of the tale—where a rapist is rewarded with a wife both faithful and fair—is a call to activism, not a vision of equity achieved.</p>

Journal

The Chaucer ReviewPenn State University Press

Published: Jun 22, 2019

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