Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, "Laura's Tale" [in (very slow) progress]

Genre: folk tale of marital bliss and intrigue, with overtones of tragedy, satire, and Middle English "Arnie" (pronounced like ModE "irony")..

Form: rhyming trimeter octosyllabic triplets, an unique instance of this Dantesque "terzza rima" form in Chaucer's oeuvre.

Source: the missus.

Characters: Herself, two cats, and a scribbler.

Summary: What's to tell?  Two cats were playing tennis.   One says to the other, "Say, my father's in this racket!"

Interpretive Issues:

1)  Why did Chaucer never admit to writing "Laura's Tale"?  Does this suggest self-censorship, a failure of nerve, or perhaps the insidious political influence of John of Gaunt?

2)  Why are there no manuscript or early printed versions of "Laura's Tale"?  Recent experiments in critical metempsychosis have led some to suspect that Chaucer's soul dictated the surviving modern version of the poem to the body of a modern American scholar's wife, or perhaps to "her little cats."  Absence of earlier copies doubtless proves the existence of John of Gaunt's plot to cover up its existence, as Dan Brown doubtless could demonstrate using the same inexorable logic he displays in The DaVinci Code.  His not yet having written this demonstration is further proof, if any were needed, of the far-flung scope of this conspiracy.

3)  Popular film spoofs on archeological research (the "Indiana Jones" and "National Treasure" series) suggest that the time is ripe for the unmasking of "Laura's Tale" as the coded map to a hoard of incalculable riches.  If you are Harrison Ford or Nicholas Cage and wish to take advantage of this opportunity for a seven figure advance, please contact the owner of this web site.  Students are reminded that all of those pop films presume that valuable artifacts of the past, because they lie undisturbed in some third-world country or buried beneath a major public monument, are free for the taking by the intrepid, clue deciphering scholar.  What if the same strategy were employed to raid your own domicile for "ancient artifacts"?  Finding and preserving in situ such artifacts, especially by making curators aware of their true value, is the higher aim of the scholar-adventurer, as the cats will tell you, if you ask.

Critical Articles:

Warp, Loomis, and Lacey Woof.  "Art, Anxiety, and Tabriz Carpets in 'Laura's Tale'"  Chaucer Review 33:3 (1999) 28-315.

        Warp and Woof study the relationship between figures in oriental carpets and Chaucer's own art of narrative, seeing in LT a pattern of metaphoric self-reference to the artist's ultimately doomed attempt to tie up the loose ends.   Both experiments inevitably will fail, and (say Warp and Woof) Chaucer's Laura effectively revokes the process of weaving in the tale's final lines just as Chaucer will retract "the tales of Canterbury thilke that sownen into synne" (X.1085; RC 328).    Warp and Woof's article also begins with a good, recent review of the scarce scholarship on LT, which can be a real time-saver to those writing papers under deadline pressure.  Those same students would be well-rewarded for adding to their introductions such a recent "review of the recent critical literature" on their primary sources.  It's what scholars do for each other as part of our long-running conversation about the text.  But I digress.  Independent scholar Peter Donahue recommends, in a private communication (7/12/07) Warp and Woof's earlier study of "the socioeconomic status of 'webbes, dyeres and tapyceres' in the 14th century," but good luck finding it.  I suspect it may be another instance of ironic self-reference, but upon what standard of normal discourse would I found such a claim of irony in the realm of the imaginary?

Zyzygy, Anton-Rudolph.  "Knotty Problems: Unseen Connections in 'Laura's Tale' and James "Figure in the Carpet.'"  Notes & Queries 194:1 (2007) 2-3.

        Zyzygy's astonishingly compressed analysis of relationships between the Henry James short story and Chaucer's possibly apocryphal tale forms a critical mare's nest of hermeneutical instability.  Because he previously published the same thesis under a different title ("Threads of Time") in a different journal (String Theory International) and spelled his name "Syzygy," one suspects these two articles are yoked together in a conspiracy too dark to contemplate.

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