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Essay on The Carnivalesque Nature of the Canterbury Tales

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There once was a group of people, high and low, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, religious and fool, who suddenly found themselves thrown together in most charming disarray upon the Road to Canterbury. Geoffrey Chaucer was a famously political scholar of his time and an impetuous writer from the medieval period of English literature. His many works, which includes an extensive poetic narrative titled The Canterbury Tales, were widely popular during his time and have remained so ever since. The Canterbury Tales, a group of tales packed within a framing narrative, are widely studied and adapted today reinforcing Chaucer’s enduring talent to produce written works which so enduringly grasp the corages of human nature.
One of the many things about The Canterbury Tales that makes it so readable today, hundreds of years later, is Chaucer’s utilization of various familiar genres within the tale. One of those genres, the fabliau, is a surprising twist when first encountering The Canterbury Tales. Even when read in the hard to understand dialect of Middle English, the fabliau elicits mirth as it is simple to spy crass but humorous jokes, despite the language barrier. The fabliau in fact is a genre specifically not to be taken seriously. Larry Benson defines it in his introduction to the Riverside Chaucer:
…a brief comic tale in verse, usually scurrilous and often scatological or obscene. The style is simple, vigorous, and straightforward; the time is the present, and the settings real, familiar places; the characters are ordinary sorts… the plots are realistically motivated tricks and ruses. The fabliaux thus present a lively image of everyday life among the middle and lower classes. Yet that representation only seems real...


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Horton, Scott. "Nietzsche – The Dionysian Impulse." Harper's Magazine. 25 July 2009. Web. Apr. 2014. .

Kao, Sandy, Ally Chang, and Kate Liu. "Mikhail Bakhtin (1895 - 1975)." Mikhail Bakhtin (1895 - 1975). Literary Criticism Databank, Web. Apr. 2014.
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Nietzsche, Friedrich. "Apollo versus Dionysus." Nietzsche on the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Trans. Ian Johnston. Denis Dutton.Web. Apr. 2014. .

Taylor, Ben. Bakhtin, Carnival, and Comic Theory. Thesis. University of Nottingham, 1995. U of Nottingham, 1995. Ethesis.nottingham. Web. Apr. 2014. .




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