By Holly A. Crocker
This e-book argues that Chaucer demanding situations his culture's mounting obsession with imaginative and prescient via his diversified structures of masculinity. simply because medieval theories of imaginative and prescient relied upon differences among lively and passive seers and audience, optical discourse had social and ethical implications for gender distinction in overdue fourteenth-century England.
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Additional resources for Chaucer's Visions of Manhood (The New Middle Ages)
Chaucer’s representation of the Prudence and Melibee dialogue evinces a keen awareness that agency is connected to issues of vision, and that sight affects continuities of gender identity. Because this chapter opens a horizon onto those that follow, the first section surveys the most relevant medieval theories of sight in order to illustrate the complexity of visuality in Chaucer’s culture. I then offer a more extended examination of Roger Bacon’s optical theory to illustrate both the bilateralism of sighted agency and the consolidating narrative framework that makes this composite vision legible in conventional terms.
Views of Sight The ability to manage visibility is both enabled and constrained by medieval theories of sight, which, in their variety, reveal vision’s unsettled philosophical status in the Middle Ages. Competing discourses of vision distributed agency alternately between seer and seen. Investing agency in the seer, extramission posited that rays, or species, emanated from the eye and struck an object, thus giving it form. 8 Even Plato allows for some agency of objects, however. In his SEEING GENDER’S ASPECTS 19 account, the object emits a force that the eye’s luminous power engages in the intervening medium.
Mark Smith illustrates in his lucid account of perspectivist optics, the recovery of Aristotelian writings reconfigured the viewer’s agency in sense experience, so that “abstracted meanings. ”16 Unlike Plato’s conception, the Aristotelian perspective on vision prioritized the power of the object in seeing. In what became known as the visual theory of “intromission,” a thing external to the viewer emitted rays, or species, which made an impression upon the eye. 17 With scholasticism’s shift to Aristotelian frames of learning, intromission became the dominant theory of vision in the thirteenth century.