The Canterbury Tales

Queerness in Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales College

“Queer[ness] functions to undermine normativity.” (TISON PUGH)

Before introducing the critical debate surrounding Chaucer’s use of queerness and establishing the main argument of this essay, it is important to initially define the meaning of the word ‘normativity’; The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘normativity’ as “having qualities that conform or constitute to a standard or order”[1]. Within the quote under consideration, Pugh asserts that queerness in medieval literature is used by the author to subvert the expectations of the reader and stress the flaws within the concept of normativity that are prevalent in Middle English literature. This essay shall discuss how queerness is used within The Canterbury Tales to express how normativity is superfluous and overrated within medieval society, focusing primarily on the presentation of the Pardoner within the ‘General Prologue’ and ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’. However, this essay shall also consider the portrayal of the Pardoner in the anonymous continuations of Chaucer’s poem, in particular ‘The Tale of Beryn’; several anonymous fifteenth-century poets had contributed their own additions to The Canterbury Tales due to Chaucer’s death before concluding the narrative of the...

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