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The Nun's Priest's Tale: An Annotated Bibliography

Cock.  From the BNF

"Art is not about subjects, but
about ways of seeing subjects."
—V. A. Kolve.

Image:Coq. (BNF, FR 136) fol. 20v. Barthélemy l'Anglais, Le Livre des Propriétés des choses.
France, L'Anjou, Maine XVe s. From La Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Bloomfield, Morton W. "The Wisdom of the Nun's Priest's Tale."
Chaucerian Problems and Perspectives. Edward Vasta and Zacharias P. Thundy, Editors.
Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979. 70-82.
Bloomfield, classifying the NPT as a beast-fable claims it into the category of "wisdom literature"—literature dedicated to teach the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the past. Bloomfield sees it as a story of how "virtu can outwit fortune." He studies the epic conventions mocked in the tale, and concludes that the tale is about "the subversion of wisdom and its reinstatement."

Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Truth and Fiction in the Nun's Priest's Tale."
The Chaucer Review. Vol. 14, no 1, Summer 1979. 33-47.
Brody concentrates his study on the ways the narrator of the story keeps reminding his audience that they are, in effect, listening to a story—the line between truth and fiction. Brody claims that the tale is reflexive of the action of storytelling on the pilgrimage, and the responsibility of the listeners to extract truths from fictions. Brody states that "one apparent truth about the tale is that it will not easily support one meaning… the tale is less about a particular moral in it than about the very existence of moral possibilities.

Cavanaugh, Susan H. "Explanatory Notes for The Nun's Priest's Tale."
The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd Edition. Larry D Benson, Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987. 935-941.
Cavanaugh's "Explanatory Notes" are exactly that. She covers the latest topics in criticism from sources and analogues to Chaucer's conception of the Nun's Priest, giving a general overview and a good working bibliography for a student interested in further research.

Chamberlain, David S. "The Nun's Priest's Tale and Boethius's De Musica."
Modern Philology. Vol. 68, no 2, November 1970. 188-191.
Chamberlain disagrees with Peter Dronke's argument, that Boethius' De Musica was the object of Chaucer's irony in lines 3292-3 of the tale. He argues that Daun Russell knows Boethius' ideas, but that he twists them maliciously to destroy Chauntecleer.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales : Nine Tales and the General Prologue.
V.A. Kolve and Glending Olson, Editors. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989. 428-437.
This Norton Critical Edition gives as sources and backgrounds an excerpt from Caxton's translation of Aesop's Fables, branch 2 of the Roman de Renart (translated by Elizabeth Hanson-Smith specially for this volume), "On Dreams" excerpt from Macrobius (Stahl trans.) and Geoffrey of Vinsauf's lament on the death of Richard I.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The nun's priest's tale." A Variorum Edition
of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer; v.2. The Canterbury Tales; pt.9
Derek Pearsall, Ed. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.
Pearsall's edition presents and studies the textual variations present in the various manuscript versions of the text.

Cooper, Helen. The Canterbury Tales. 2nd ed.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. 338-357.
Cooper's excellent overview and commentary on the tale is divided under categories such as, for example, 'Genre,' 'Sources and Analogues,' 'Structure,' 'Themes,' and 'Style.' Cooper summarizes the latest critical trends, adds her own critical evaluations, and refers the reader to articles for further study. Under 'Sources and Analogues,' Cooper addresses the fact that numerous contending sources have been cited for various parts of the story—Cooper refuses to get mired in the contention, saying: "Whatever his source, he amplified and altered it extensively." Under 'Structure' Cooper notes that the plot counts only for some sixty of 626 lines of the tale, as opposed to some 280 lines of debate on dreams. Cooper also 'dissects' what she calls the "structure of layers of fictionality"—the picture within a picture scheme of narrators. Under 'Themes' Cooper states that this same layering makes the tale a "story-collection in itself," and thus, in a way, the Canterbury Tales in miniature. Cooper states that the tale "refuses all attempts to turn it into something other than a superb story." She refers to the tale's (and Tales') relativism, and states that what is "quintessentially Chaucerian" about the tale is "the brilliance of the telling and the resistance it offers to possible audience expectations of what it 'ought' to do."

Coote, Stephen. Chaucer: The Nun's Priest's Tale. London: Penguin Group, 1989.
This is a book with introductory notes and background on the Middle Ages and the context of the tale.

Corsa, Helen Storm. Chaucer: Poet of Mirth and Morality.
Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964. 211-220.
Corsa suspects that Chaucer chose to give the tale to a pilgrim so sketchily described in the GP so that "it is the tale itself that ultimately matters and not the teller." Corsa also does not care what version of the Roman de Renart Chaucer based his tale on—it is unlike anything before it. Corsa discusses the Boethian elements of Fortune and free will in the tale, and concludes that the questions raised are left unanswered. Why? Corsa herself leaves that unanswered.

David, Alfred. The Strumpet Muse : Art and Morals in Chaucer's Poetry.
Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976. 215-231.
David proposes that if one must have a portrait of the Nun's Priest, it should be the Troilus frontispiece of Chaucer, the ideal "poet-preacher"—this tale is a reassessment of the poet's task. David states that the tale comments on everything that has been in the previous tales—it is, as David says, "an omnium gatherum of lore and learning that holds up to scrutiny the various means by which man seeks to understand his world." David discusses the characters' use of auctorite, stating that the greatest user of authority is the narrator. He contends that the main target of the satire is the tendency to look for a moral everywhere: "Such moralism is a product of man's presumptuous belief that he can explain his condition within his earthly limitations." David concludes with a rare and precious observation: "The affection we feel for [the characters] is the pleasure that Chaucer takes in all of his creatures, and it is this sense of pleasure in the world and in life that makes the comic view of the Nun's Priest's Tale transcend the tragedies of the Monk and even the tragedy of Troilus."

Fehrenbacher, Richard W. "'A yeerd enclosed al about': Literature and History
in the Nun's Priest's Tale." The Chaucer Review. Vol. 29, no 2, 1994. 134-148.
Fehrenbacher, without once naming the New Critics, writes a whole essay on how, despite its best efforts to "escape the realm of the historical" Nun's Priest's Tale fails. Fehrenbacher sees the "rhetorical excesses" of the tale as an attempt to contain the social and historical dimension.

Hinckley, Henry Barrett. Notes on Chaucer.
Northampton, Massachusetts: The Nonotuck Press, 1907.
Hinckley begins by a discussion of analogues to the tale. He tries to convince the reader that Chaucer had at least cursory familiarity with Flemish or Dutch, and that the tale is at least partly based on Dutch or Flemish matter. He comments on Ms. Petersen's scholarship, as well as a few other analogues. The rest of the chapter is a glossary of specific lines in the tale.(AJ: With Pearsall's and Benson's respective editions with excellent notes, there is no reason to use this text.)

Hulbert, James R. "The Nun's Priest's Tale." Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
W.F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster, Editors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941. 645-663.
A short discussion of possible sources and analogues followed by branch II of Roman de Renart in Old French with notes, an excerpt from the German Reinhart Fuchs (held by Petersen to be one of NPTs sources), as well as an exempla in Valerius Maximus in Latin, with notes.

Kelly, Kathleen Ann. "An Inspiration for Chaucer's Description of Chauntecleer."
English Language Notes. Vol. 30, no 3, March 1993. 1-6.
Kelly first gives a brief overview of the sources critics have attributed for Chaucer's description of Chantecleer. She then suggests that Chaucer did not simply create "a hyperbolic description of Everyrooster" but that he was influenced by the description of the phoenix in Mandeville's Travels. She contends that for those in Chaucer's audience who would have made the connection, it would have served to heighten the mock-heroic elements of the tale.

Macrobius. Excerpt from "Commentary on the Dream of Scipio." Chaucer : Sources and Backgrounds.
Robert P. Miller, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. 49-51.
One of the sources for Chanticleer's discussion on dreams.

Mann, Jill. "The Speculum Stultorum and the Nun's Priest's Tale."
The Chaucer Review. Vol. 9, no 3, Winter 1975. 262-282.
A study of the Speculum Stultorum and its possible influence on the Nun's Priest's Tale. Mann feels that Chaucer is indebted to Nigel's work for spirit, literary complexity, and comic vision.

Muscatine, Charles. Chaucer and the French Tradition.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957. 237-243.
Muscatine contends that the Nun's Priest's Tale is perhaps Chaucer's best Tale, one that epitomizes the other Tales. According to Muscatine, the NPT is about the "problem of perception itself." He states that the tale "does not so much make true and solemn assertions about life as it tests truths and tries out solemnities." He suggests that the NPT is most Chaucerian in "its poise before an overwhelming question, "What is this world?""

Myers, D. E. "Focus and 'Moralite' in the Nun's Priest's Tale."
The Chaucer Review. Vol. 7, no 3, Winter 1973. 210-220.
Discusses perception and focus in the tale, and attempts to give an answer to the tale's "moralite." Myers finds three overlapping hierarchies (versus Cooper's six)—that of the cock, the fox, and the narrator. Myers discusses the tale in the context of the Knight's Tale, and the Monk's Tale. Myers also holds that the prelate is, in effect, telling a story about himself (Chaunticleer can be seen as a prelate, the nuns as hens). (AJ: How ironic that an essay about focus is so unfocused and rambling.)

Payne, F. Anne. "Foreknowledge and Free Will: Three Theories in the Nun's Priest's Tale."
The Chaucer Review. Vol. 10, no 3, 1976. 201-219.
Payne sees the NPT as a satire on Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. She also considers the tale in the light of St. Augustine's writings on fate and free will, and Bishop Bradwardine's determinist philosophy. She ends by saying that before we get enchanted with the undermining of the three, we have to remember that the tale is a fable, something that cannot have happened.

Petersen, Kate Oelzner. On the Sources of The Nonne Prestes Tale.
Reprint. New York: Haskell House, 1966.
Petersen's research was groundbreaking when it first came out in 1898. Her study and contention of the German Reinhart Fuchs as one of the sources for Chaucer's tale has, however, been discredited by modern scholarship.

Pratt, Robert A. "Three Old French Sources of the Nonnes Preestes Tale (Part I)."
Speculum 47, July 1972. 422-444.
Pratt, Robert A. "Three Old French Sources of the Nonnes Preestes Tale (Part II)."
Speculum 47, 1972. 646-668.
Pratt conducts an extensive study of three probable sources for the NPT: Renart le Contrefait, Roman de Renart, and Marie de France's "Del cok e del gupil." He comes to the conclusion (and this is the prevalent opinion today) that the Roman de Renart "must be credited for the over-all design of Chaucer's narrative."

Shallers, A. Paul. "The 'Nun's Priest's Tale': An Ironic Exemplum." ELH 42, 1975. 319-337.
Shallers studies the Medieval exemplum and the ironic voice in this article. He goes over trends in criticism to assign a meaning to the tale. He also explores some of the sources and analogues for the tale, as well as looks at the tale in light of the Knight's Tale. He concludes that: "[The NPT] is instead Chaucer's comic vision of mankind which counterbalances in the Canterbury Tales the ideal image he presents in the Knight's Tale."

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Created on October 29, 1998 by Anniina Jokinen. Page last updated on February 5, 2023.


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