Chaucer’s Retraction, which concludes both the Parson’s Tale and the Canterbury Tales in most manuscripts, presents a number of interpretive problems. Many of these problems stem from the widespread assumption that, as its (editorially supplied) title asserts, the Retraction constitutes a retraction or disavowal of Chaucer’s literary corpus. But on what basis do we assume that the work we know as the Retraction does in fact constitute a retraction or disavowal? This article examines the evidence for the presence of a disavowal, arriving at the conclusion that the element of disavowal has been overestimated. Editorial conventions that have persisted into our modern editions, some of which date to the earliest manuscripts, have the effect of not only creating the distinct work we know as the Retraction, but of subtly smoothing over many of the most vexing problems presented by the text in favor of a reading that highlights Chaucer’s supposed disavowal.

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