Philosophical Chaucer

Mark Miller’s innovative study argues that Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales represent an extended meditation on agency, autonomy, and practical reason. This philosophical aspect of Chaucer’s interests can help us understand what is both sophisticated and disturbing about his explorations of love, sex, and gender. Partly through fresh readings of the Consolation of Philosophy and the Romance of the Rose, Miller charts Chaucer’s relation to the association in the Christian West between problems of autonomy and problems of sexuality, and reconstructs how medieval philosophers and poets approached psychological phenomena often thought of as the exclusive province of psychoanalysis. The literary experiments of the Canterbury Tales represent a distinctive philosophical achievement that remains vital to our own attempts to understand agency, desire, and their histories.

• A study of Chaucer’s often neglected interests in philosophy, gender and sexuality • A new account of medieval psychological and philosophical thought about love • A study of medieval contexts which also examines modern psychoanalytic theories on Chaucer


Introduction: Chaucer and the problem of normativity; 1. Naturalism and its discontents in the Miller’s Tale; 2. Normative longing in the Knight’s Tale; 3. Agency and dialectic in the Consolation of Philosophy; 4. Sadomasochism and utopia in the Roman de la Rose; 5. Suffering love in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; 6. Love’s promise: the Clerk’s Tale and the scandal of the unconditional; Bibliography.