Abstract

Building on emotion studies and the cognate disciplines of sociology and behavioral psychology, this article considers the tears (or lack thereof) shed by Chaucer's Criseyde and her literary siblings at pivotal moments in the Trojan story as transmitted from Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Guido delle Colonne, and Giovanni Boccaccio to Chaucer's love epic. It argues that the Criseyde-character was indigenously and polemically identified with tearful expression in the antifeminist tradition to which Chaucer responded, and that Chaucer, through what we might call a revisionist lacrimology, reframed the significance of Criseyde's weeping to establish her as his poem's most complex emotional agent. Chaucer capitalized on the phenomenological multivalence of tears to destabilize venerable literary expectations surrounding female tearfulness, particularly in relation to widowhood and infidelity. He accomplishes this both by complicating the signifying properties of Criseyde's tears and by affiliating her with a poetics of laughter.

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