Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Dr. John Hatcher.

Keywords

The canterbury tales, Prudence, Michel foucault, Feminist theory, Medieval literature

Abstract

In the Tale of Melibee, Chaucer gives us an excellent illustration of a point French theorist Michel Foucault would make centuries later: That power is something that moves and shifts between people and within institutions, that it is not fixed nor permanent, that it is used as needed toward specific ends, and that it is enacted through the medium of discourse. In Melibee, Melibees wife Prudence achieves a place of authority and influence in her marriage via her use of discourse, and specifically by using a more male way of speaking. Chaucer is often considered feminist-friendly due to characters such as the Wife of Bath, but critics have also given us many reasons why the Wife fails as a truly empowered woman. Within Chaucers oeuvre, Prudence is often overlooked as an example of Chaucers proto-feminism because she is a wife who, despite her barrage of knowledge, at times is somewhat meek and subservient to her husband.

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