Gamelyn

 

Canterbury_Tales

It is done. For what it is worth, here is the abstract, keeping in mind that I am *terrible* at abstracts where I have to turn 8000 words into 500… or basically any abstracts for that matter…

The Tale of Gamelyn is the black sheep of the Canterbury Tales. Few have spent more time on it past dubbing it “un-Chaucerian” and making various arguments against its authorship. Here I wish to assert not only Gamelyn’s authorship, but its origin and correct place within the tale order of the Canterbury Tales.

Some Chaucer scholarship has so deeply seeped into tradition it has become irrevocable truth among medievalists, and unfortunately the idea that Gamelyn was an addendum to the Canterbury Tales and not penned by Chaucer has suffered such a fate. However, when looking at three of the major strands of arguments against Gamelyn’s authenticity certain fallacies become immediately apparent.

To better understand why Gamelyn is a part of Chaucer’s oeuvre and intended for the Canterbury Tales, it is important not only to look at the text in light of narrative, but to perform the proper and necessary codicological and paleographic research of the twenty-five extant witness manuscripts that include the tale. And most importantly, its absence from other manuscripts must be considered, especially among those thought to be authoritative and part of the “early manuscript” category, despite phylogenetic analyses that attest to the similarities between the exemplars used.

Yet it is also the tale’s narrative originality that casts doubt among critics as to Chaucer’s authorship. The majority of his works were either adaptations of previous narratives, or had clearly transparent points of influence. Gamelyn cannot be placed anywhere prior to its existence within the Canterbury Tales. Nevertheless, when regarding Gamelyn as un-Chaucerian based only upon its utter uniqueness, the underlying assumption is that Chaucer was incapable of creating original work – a theory which the corpus of works unquestionably credited to him disproves. However, while there was in fact no other similar tale, what I would like to point out is that despite its original narrative it is actually just another example of appropriation and recycling of old ideas (in a most ingenious way).

Through point by point plot comparisons and parallels in language, I will explore how Gamelyn is Chaucer’s version of Beowulf. Once this is outlined, the question still remains as to where within the Canterbury Tales it belongs, and which of the pilgrims is the best candidate for having told it.

In every manuscript where the tale may be found it is placed after the unfinished Cook’s Tale, having lead scholars to believe that it was to be told by the Cook in lieu of his initial tale, much like Chaucer the pilgrim tells two tales after having abandoned the first one (Thopas). Evidence among the manuscripts, including several where the tale is not found, corroborates this hypothesis. However, by careful analysis of all the pilgrims who could have been the tellers of this tale, and through a process of elimination, I will propose the Yeoman (not to be confused with the Canon’s Yeoman) as Gamelyn’s teller.

In short, this paper will probe Gamelyn from myriad perspectives to better understand its place and origin within the Chaucer tradition.

 

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