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Sensible Prose and a Sense of Meter: Chaucer’s Aesthetic Sentence in the Boece and Troilus and Criseyde

Sensible Prose and a Sense of Meter: Chaucer’s Aesthetic Sentence in the Boece and Troilus and Criseyde

Chapter:
(p.55) Chapter Two Sensible Prose and a Sense of Meter: Chaucer’s Aesthetic Sentence in the Boece and Troilus and Criseyde
Source:
Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Author(s):
Eleanor Johnson
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226015989.003.0003

This chapter explores the meters of Chaucer in his poetic works. Like Alain, Dante, and Guillaume, Chaucer performed in his work a vernacular literary experimentation with the relationship between aesthetic form and ethical function. Chaucer's experiment, however, turned to an all-prose form, leveling the metrical sections entirely. He does this for two reasons: one is that Jean de Meun's prose work served as a guide to his Middle English redaction of the Consolation. Secondly, Chaucer's choice of form does not seem to constitute a simple inability on his part to reproduce the metrical form of Boethius's Latinate songs. Chaucer wanted to experiment with converting Latin poetry into English poetry. This chapter explores the leveling of the Boethian meters, placing its origin his engagement with three conflicting bodies of early literary theory: Boethius's theory of prose, the body of emergent, vernacular, fourteenth-century theories and practices of prose, and the Latin tradition of theorizing and practicing prose style.

Keywords:   chaucer, alain, dante, guillaume, vernacular literary experimentation, jean de meun, boethius's latinate songs, leveling of the boethian meters

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