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

By L. Kordecki

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

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Example text

Animal Auctoritee: Dreaming of Birds The entrance of the wise and clear- sighted bird shows us Chaucer playing with an even more radical speaker than Dido in Book I. Many readers in our postfeminist age can see (if not wholly accept) the cross-gendering voice that Chaucer affects, but at the end of the fourteenth century, I would argue, a cross- species voice is seriously attempted by this selfconscious writer. Many forms of legitimized discourse employed the animal speaker, and our own attempts to confine these texts to simplistic 34 ECOFEMINIST SU BJECTIVITIES human- centered allegorization emerge as anachronistic, a hermeneutic habit from a centuries-old smug hegemony and metaphysics that we now must examine.

And here, the poem also shows that nature challenges the subjectivity assumed by authors who consult only written, visual sources for their voice, for Chaucer is now looking to nature for a new voice, and he has his speaker enact a representative little dramatization. The discussion of “kynd” continues in aerial arenas into the realm of the heavens where, in myth, the famous are literally made into stars. Again, the nonhuman is emphasized as the eagle tells the dreamer to behold “eyryssh bestes” (932), which in a long commentary note, Benson glosses as “demons of the air,” alluding to Aristotle, Alanus de Insulis, and others.

This chapter examines the parallel dominations of animals and women through story. Theories of ecological feminism help decipher the allegory of the birds and mating. At the end, a personified nature controls the animal and becomes the construct of humans who cloud vision (especially the animal- cluttered dream vision) and develop the “human” voice that ultimately skews all sense of sight. The third chapter brings us to the Canterbury tales of speaking animals. One of the intriguing hooks of the Canterbury Tales is that it literally demonstrates a canonical (the first great English canonical) writer’s attempt to define good storytelling.

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