Orality and the Satiric Tradition in “The Pardoner’s Tale”

Orality and the Satiric Tradition in “The Pardoner’s Tale”

By Luis Alberto Lázaro

Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature, edited by Margarita Giménez Bon and Vickie Olsen (Vitoria, 1997)

Introduction: One might reasonably suppose that Geoffrey Chaucer, being a court poet in the final rounds of the Medieval Period, was a representative of a literate class of writers. It is a well-known fact that he knew how to read and write, and he was also, beyond doubt, familiar with the literary tradition of his age; he had even translated some French poems and was well acquainted with Italian and classical writers’s works. Therefore, it is logical to assume that Chaucer was intellectually detached from the pure, mainstream oral style, stranger to the orally composed and orally transmitted literature. Critics have sometimes regarded his poetry as a peculiar combination of orality and literacy, reflecting the culture of his society in a period in which the oral tradition was still thriving, although writing was slowly transforming into an artifice of instruction and entertainment; that is to say, akin to an age in which orality was giving way to textuality. The main aim of this paper is to emphasise the characteristics of orality that can be found in Chaucer’s written work, establishing a connection between these remains of an oral culture present in his literary output and the satiric tradition of the Middle Ages.

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