The law of man and its ' abhomynacions'

Carolyn Dinshaw

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    The 'abhomynacions' of Dinshaw's title are the themes of incest which the Man of Law announces in his Prologue that he is not going to deal with, but which return at several points in the Tale he tells. In the first section of Dinshaw's chapter (omitted here), the Man of Law is established as a spokesman upholding patriarchy, property and propriety, 'professionally engaged in maintaining society as it is'. Constance's being exported to marry the Sultan is seen as a telling instance of that trade in women - putting women into circulation like goods or currency - that maintains (patriarchal) social order, and the incest prohibition (that disallows keeping women at home, so to speak) is a vital part of such trade, and hence supported by the Man of Law (and indeed, Dinshaw argues, by Levi-Strauss in his classic analyses of it). Patriarchy's ideal of woman as a 'blank' to be imprinted solely with male desire is, however, ruptured in the Tale by women who have their own desires, including incestuous desires for sons or fathers. At these points of rupture, Dinshaw notes how the Tale strives to efface such threats by, among other things, demonizing these women and excluding them from the realm of 'femynynytee' altogether. Dinshaw in fact sees the Man of Law's Tale generally as an exemplary instance (following on the analyses of Pierre Macherey) of the ways in which a dominant ideology works for a resolution of contradictions, presenting itself as a seamlessly coherent, 'natural' and self-evidently legitimate state of things in the face of the opposition that besets it.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationChaucer
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Canterbury Tales
    PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
    Pages78-99
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9781317891208
    ISBN (Print)9781138180246
    StatePublished - Jun 11 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities(all)

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  • Cite this

    Dinshaw, C. (2014). The law of man and its ' abhomynacions'. In Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales (pp. 78-99). Taylor and Francis Inc..