2019 Symposium Abstract 10: Dcn. Aaron Taylor - "Metanoia in Faerie: Ascetic Peregrinatio & the Transfiguration of Eros in Chaucer's 'Wife of Bath's Tale'"

Feast of St Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow

In Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale”, an unnamed knight, having fallen prey to lust for a young maiden, rapes her. When the crime is discovered, King Arthur is prepared to execute him, but Queen Guinevere asks that he be handed over to her to be tried in the Court of Love. There, his punishment is that he must go on a quest to discover the secret of what women want most in love, returning within a year and a day on pain of death. The answer, which leads in the end to the redemption of the knight, cannot be found at the court or in the mundane world of knightly living, but is only found in Faerie. My argument is that the knight’s quest represents a typical kind of ascetic withdrawal—the peregrinatio—wherein it is only in a state of complete separation from the world that the full control of the passions, and the resulting virtues, cardinal as well as theological, are attainable. Furthermore, those virtues culminate in ‘the greatest of these’—love—as the recognition of the sovereign claims of the other and thus the transfiguration of eros.

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