Department or Program



This thesis argues that Chaucer’s treatment of women in four of his major poems is perpetuated in the modern academy and in the field of medieval studies. Drawing from the canonical Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale are used to explore the substitution of female desire for female agency, as well as Chaucer’s ultimate subversion of both; the Knight’s Tale is used to illustrate Chaucer’s perpetuation of traditional medieval gender roles when writing about powerful Amazon warriors and the male character Theseus. Turning to the Legend of Good Women, the Lacanian understanding that “the woman does not exist” is unpacked and the relationship between female beauty and male falsity is explicated; historical information about the antifeminist tradition of the Middle Ages is also used to understand Chaucer’s identification with his male characters. The relationship between Criseyde, argued to be a Lacanian phantasy, and her various textual and extra-textual lovers in Troilus and Criseyde is studied in order to evaluate how the loss of Criseyde at the end of the poem is a symptom of male desire. This thesis places in the midst of its close readings instances of modern perpetuation of Chaucer’s treatment of women in the academy, exploring the Larry Summers and Tim Hunt controversies, as well as tensions between critical theories in the field of medieval studies. I argue that Chaucer’s treatment of women has transferred into modernity such that the modern academy is best seen as a medieval institution.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Federico, Sylvia

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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