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Prosimetrum and the CanterburyPhilosophy of Literature

Prosimetrum and the CanterburyPhilosophy of Literature

Chapter:
(p.122) Chapter Four Prosimetrum and the CanterburyPhilosophy of Literature
Source:
Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages
Author(s):
Eleanor Johnson
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226015989.003.0005

This chapter further explores Chaucer's only formally prosimetric work, the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's form in Tales is designed as a pointed gesture toward prosimetrum, being that it does not alternate prose with meter as regularly as is practiced by other prosimetra. In fact, like Boethius's prosimetrum, the Canterbury Tales explicitly theorizes the difference between prose and meter as opposed methods of aiding an audience in learning. The Canterbury Tales also puts forth two more basic questions of literary philosophy, besides the questions posed by Boece and Troilus. The first is with regards to the composition, reading, or hearing of literature, and whether these constitute a good use of time. The second deals with the aesthetic form and style, and how they both might contribute to literature's ability or failure to make the most of time. These questions are both addressed by this chapter to determine the philosophical implications of literature in Chaucer's work.

Keywords:   prosimetric work, canterbury tales, chaucer, prosimetrum, prosimetra, boethius's prosimetrum, literary philosophy, boece, troilus

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