Medieval commentaries on the origin and history of language used biblical history, from Creation to the Tower of Babel, as their starting-point, and described the progressive impairment of an originally perfect language. Biblical and classical sources raised questions for both medieval poets and commentators about the nature of language, its participation in the Fall, and its possible redemption. John M. Fyler focuses on how three major poets - Chaucer, Dante, and Jean de Meun - participated in these debates about language. He offers fresh analyses of how the history of language is described and debated in the Divine Comedy, the Canterbury Tales and the Roman de la Rose. While Dante follows the Augustinian idea of the Fall and subsequent redemption of language, Jean de Meun and Chaucer are skeptical about the possibilities for linguistic redemption and resign themselves, at least half-comically, to the linguistic implications of the Fall and the declining world.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Number of pages: 322
Weight: 480 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
"In this stimulating book, Professor Fyler seeks to explore the ways in which Chaucer, Dante and Jean de Meun come to terms with the question of the origins of language and its decline since the Fall of Man...[This book] stands as a powerful and sophisticated reading of Chaucer and his great vernacular auctores and will be read with profit by anyone interested in how Chaucer weaves himself in and out of those sources."
-K. P. Clarke, Brasenose College Oxford, Review of English Studies
"...this book belongs on the reading list of any course dealing with language and authorship in medieval theology, literature, or culture. The first chapter alone should be required reading for all advanced students of medieval literature...one of those rare works of criticism that no reader will wish shorter."
-Arthur Lindley, University of Birmingham, The Medieval Review
"...immensely learned and well-written new book...Less a polemic than a meditation on language in a fallen world, Language and the Declining World teases out a host of intricate positions on the nature of language and its capabilities." -- Tim William Machan, Marquette University, Speculum