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Title: Gender and social status in Chaucer's language
Author: Hanna, N.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 6096
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the semantics and pragmatics of nouns that denote gender and social status in Chaucer’s literature e.g. ‘knyght’, ‘lady’, ‘leche’, ‘wyf’. It argues that a comparative analysis of these words across Chaucer’s corpus may challenge the traditional perceptions of Chaucer’s characters and their social roles, and clarify the supposed ambiguity assigned to these characters in modern criticism. Previous literary analyses of the language have been open to the charge of being unsystematic in their choice of the lexis examined. This thesis addresses this issue by taking a corpus-based approach to identify patterns of language and idiomatic phraseology for discussion, with the aim of discovering if this method can inform new interpretations of Chaucer’s works. With the aid of lexicographical resources (i.e. MED, OED, HTOED), the words are examined with consideration given to their immediate lexical and greater textual contexts, as well as medieval socio-cultural sources that may have informed Chaucer’s use. Although the study takes into consideration Chaucer’s whole body of work, the thesis is structured into three chapters that focus on individual texts of 'The Canterbury Tales', including ‘The Franklin’s Tale’ and ‘The Merchant’s Tale’, the short poem 'An ABC', and finally 'Troilus and Criseyde'. These texts are chosen due to their frequencies and range of the selected social status terms, as well as the fact that they span the entire period of Chaucer’s career, allowing for discussion on how the words develop over the course of his lifetime. The study presents how these terms are utilised for varying literary effect (i.e. simple reflection, critique, comic inversion), and if they confirm or refute previous analyses on Chaucer’s presentations of gender and social roles. In doing so, the thesis offers insights to the historical basis for how these words may have developed in Middle English, and how Chaucer’s language reflects, interprets and challenges fourteenth-century cultural attitudes towards social status.
Supervisor: Rudd, G. ; Gonzalez-Diaz, V. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral