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He Says, She Says: Subjectivity and the Discourse of the Other in the Prioress's Portrait and Tale

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The Prioress's Portrait, Prologue, and Tale present a series of displacements in which Chaucer describes and ventriloquizes a sexual other, the Prioress, who, in her Tale, demonizes a "racialized" other, the Jews. Except that the incriminations against the Prioress are much more subtly suggested, she is not so unlike the Jews she depicts. Both are characterized, though in greatly differing degrees, by their sensuality, greed, bodiliness, proximity to filth, and their resistance to the Law. The categories Woman and Jew, both, are created out of a disavowal of lack, an attempt to fix or know difference; and yet, when they appear, they carry the charge of the unresolvable problem of difference, not so much between groups (men and women or Christians and Jews) but within them, raising for the authorized Christian subject, the burning question of his diflerence within. When the woman aspires to the position of the authorized Christian subject, she must also disavow her lack in language. A close look at the serial generation of others in the Prioress's Portrait, Prologue, and Tale will reveal the perpetual process of turning out what must be rejected (what is deemed impure, anti-social, sinful, bodily or "feminine") onto an other outside the category of Christianitas.

Affiliations: 1: Tufts University


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