Ecofeminist Subjectivities: Chaucer’s Talking Birds by L. Kordecki

By L. Kordecki

This publication analyzes the interplay among gender and species in Chaucer's poetry and strives to appreciate his model of medieval discourse via an ecofeminist lens. Works that both communicate of animals, or people with animals conversing, provide new insights into the medieval textual dealing with of the 'others' of society.

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993), and the dreamer responds that he is too old, the bird/tutor explains that in poetry, when gods stellify birds, fish, beast, him, or her (the metamorphosis innate to poesis that transforms the human into the nonhuman), the dreamer/ writer can now learn where these constellations are. The stubborn student replies that he does not need this knowledge, and the stars “shulde shenden al my syghte / To loke on hem” (1016–17). Benson’s note refers us to the bestiary tradition of the young eagles, which makes sense of this passage.

64 Also helpful is James Paxson’s designation of a personifier/personified on the semiotic model of the signifier/signified. Paxson’s study of the history of personification asks a pertinent question: “What, aside from the grammatical gender, was responsible for the fact that all personification figures prior to the sixth century A. D. ” At the very least, we see a long tradition of grouping the speech of women with that of animals. Rhetorical principles aid the reader in deciphering the many authorial intrusions in which Chaucer indulges, those that serve to augment his search for an individual voice by using articulate birds.

Before this representation of nature swoops down to rescue the writer from the doldrums (or more literally the desert) of that most human activity, writing, Chaucer once again interjects in the form of a second proem, which immediately calls attention to his relatively new medium, the English language: “Now herkeneth every maner man / That Englissh understonde kan” (509–10). The comedic little scene that follows is also just as much about how to write as how to react to being stolen by a bird. As soon as he is taken aloft, the dreamer compares himself to a lark (546), a light burden for the substantial eagle, a bird with a great deal of traditional literary substance.

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