By Nevil Shute
Younger pilot Donald Ross has little in universal with the Oxford archaeologist who has hired him on an day trip to the Arctic—and nonetheless much less along with his attractive yet obdurate daughter, Alix. yet as soon as the 3 of them achieve the treacherous seashores of Greenland, looking for the ruins of early Viking settlements, their destinies are inextricably sure through the occasions that spread there.
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But among the ‘sondry thynges’ which books treat of are women, and here we not only have ‘other preve’, but we find the books themselves at variance; in opposition to the antifeminist tradition which is represented in the Legend’s Prologue by the Troilus, there are the ‘sixty bokes olde and newe’ in Chaucer’s possession which the God of Love cites as containing innumerable stories of women who chose to die rather than be unfaithful (G 273–310). How can the notion of literary authority survive such contradictions?
Chaucer must have known perfectly well that Troilus and Criseyde, for the reasons I have already outlined, is not an antifeminist work. Yet he also knew (as his picture of Jankin’s use of his ‘book of wikked wyves’ makes clear) that the subtleties of authorial intention are all too often submerged in the crude interpretations of the reading public. This being so, he both is and is not contributing to the antifeminist tradition in telling of Criseyde. He therefore avails himself of the conventional polarities of the ‘woman debate’ in order to make an equivalent contribution to the opposing stereotype of the suffering ‘good woman’.
At the end of Troilus and Criseyde, he not only apologizes for his story to the female members of his audience12 – Bysechyng every lady bright of hewe, And every gentil womman, what she be, That al be that Criseyde was untrewe, That for that gilt she be nat wroth with me. Ye may hire gilt in other bokes se; 12 The audience addressed may be the implied rather than the actual audience, since Richard Green (1983–4) has shown that the number of women at court was probably small. Such apologies to women for anti-feminist material are frequent enough in medieval literature to be regarded as conventional (Mann, 1991); but Chaucer’s use of the convention is differentiated from that of other writers by his immediate addition of remarks critical of men.
An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute