Abstract

The Nun's Priest's Tale is often read as a metapoetic commentary on medieval literary traditions. This article argues that through the Nun's Priest Chaucer navigates much of the theories of characterization found in medieval treatises on poetic composition known as the artes poetriae. What Chaunticleer calls “winking” is an exploration and critique of the selective mode of poetic vision produced by medieval rhetorical-poetic theory. As part of this investigation of rhetorical doctrine, Harry's descriptio of the Nun's Priest revises the well-known rhetorical set piece of the descriptio feminae, or the top-down depiction of a prototypically beautiful woman, in novel and unexpected ways. The impetus for such a revision grows from the spirit of modernitas characteristic of the artes poetriae.

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