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Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England$
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Helen Barr

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112426

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112426.001.0001

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‘From pig to man and man to pig’: 1 The 1381 Uprisings in Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale

‘From pig to man and man to pig’: 1 The 1381 Uprisings in Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale

(p.106) Chapter Five ‘From pig to man and man to pig’:1 The 1381 Uprisings in Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale
Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England


Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the absence of authorial and narrative fixity in the The Nun's Priests Tale generates rhetorical comparisons between animals and humans which resonate very differently from those constructed in accounts of the 1381 uprisings in texts written by Chaucer's contemporaries. It explains that formal rhetorical schemes, themselves part of an order of discourse, are freighted with social commentary. It clarifies that the designation of the rebels as peasants and/or bondmen is characteristic of the way that commentators on the uprising attempted to put as much social distance as possible between themselves and those who took part in the revolt. It adds that accounts in the chronicles and poetic records, excluding Chaucer, seek to present the rebels in the worst possible light, and as far removed from any kind of civilized discourse as possible.

Keywords:   The Nun's Priests Tale, Chaucer, rhetorical schemes, social commentary, social distance, representation, Gower, humans, animals

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