This thesis examines female stereotypes in Chaucer's "The Merchant's Tale" from an intertextual, feminist perspective. Using the theories of Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes, and others, I argue that medieval authors constructed plots and characters—including stereotypes of greedy, lustful, cunning women—from existing texts, and that these constructions are best analyzed with Kristevan intertextuality.
I use Kristeva's theory to explore how genre in "The Merchant's Tale" undermines misogynistic stereotypes. The tale atypically presents dissuasio-style debates on women and marriage, undermining classical and biblical authority as ways to characterize women by showing widespread out-of-context quotation in debate poetry. The tale's fabliau-based structure, with its focus on logical fallacies and its stock adulteress and cuckold characters, clashes further with its dissuasio sections. Ultimately, an intertextual analysis shows that the tale's mix of genres renders stereotypical interpretations of its chief female character impossible.
|Commitee:||Kermode, Lloyd, Serrano, Nhora|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||MAI 51/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Comparative literature, British and Irish literature|
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