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"Chaucer and the Unnatural History of Animals"
Beryl Rowland
Medieval Studies (Pontifical Institute), 25, 1963, 367-372
 

"Chaucer shares the assumption of the unnatural historian that the behavior of animals is inspired by human motives and, hence, animals are of significance mainly for their resemblence to Man. But the simple conventional ideas which he uses were already part of popular tradition. ... Chaucer's references to fabulous creatures are also of the most popular kind. ... Chaucer's use of specific details from the the unnatural histories is small. Influential as the pseudo-scientific accounts of animals were in fixing the natures of beasts and in causing many curious ideas to be commonly accepted, Chaucer appears to have taken little interest in them. He seems to be content to accept and use the popular attributes of animals which were already part of folk belief. The reason for his preference for conventional ideas is not far to seek. Whether the animal serves as a comparison or as part of an actual scene, Chaucer's purpose is to illuminate not the world of Nature but that of Man.. The animal is, in effect, a miniature exemplum, and the more immediate the attribute, the more instantaneous the caricature." - Rowland

Language: English


 
 
  
 
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