Chivalry and the Tournament in Chaucer's Knight's Tale; History, Subjectivity, and the Subaltern in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things
Date of Award
Chivalry and the Tournament in Chaucer's Knight's Tale:
Thanks in part to movies such as First Knight, Braveheart and the recent film adaptation of The Knight's Tale, we 21st century Americans have a popular conception of chivalry. Chivalry means helping those in distress, opening doors for a date, paying for dinner, and possibly even fighting for a loved one. While the way we construct and use the term chivalry today cannot possibly give a complete picture of medieval chivalry, our contemporary notions are not completely askew. Yet chivalry, like many words that attempt to embody an entire schema of thinking, acting, and identifying, is a slippery and elusive term. Because of the totalizing nature and the innumerable variations existent in what the medievals called chivalry, it is beyond the scope of this paper to completely delineate what it was and how it functioned. My purpose, then, is to look at a single example of chivalry-Chaucer's Knight's Tale-as a way of exploring this dominant ideology of the Middle Ages and to see how in the ideal physical manifestation of chivalry-the tournament-that ideology breaks down. After this analysis, I will briefly discuss how the presentation of chivalry as inherently problematic is purposeful in the tale but constitutes neither a scathing social critique by the Knight nor by Chaucer himself.
History, Subjectivity, and the Subaltern in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things:
On the fiftieth anniversary of India's independence in 1997 perhaps more than a few found it ironic that the Booker Prize, the prestigious British literary award, went to an Indian writer. Most critics unreservedly agree, however, that Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things deserved the honor. With language that blurs the lines between poetry and prose, Roy's novel tells the story of two-egg twins, Estha and Rahel, separated at the age of seven and returning twenty seven years later to the house of their childhood in southern India. The incidents leading to their separation--the accidental death of their half-English cousin Sophie Mol and the calculated killing of the untouchable Velutha-along with all the details and small things that lead to their family's demise are interwoven into the narrative of the twins reunion. "It was a time when the unthinkable became thinkable," the narrator explains, "and the impossible really happened" (31). The purpose of this paper is to explore the oppressive power of a singular elite historical narrative that leads to such a possible impossibility. The novel demonstates the importance of transgressive minority histories in the face of a traditional, oppressive History, but the text also problematizes the efficacy of transgressive histories in empowering or liberating the subaltern or marginalized figure.
Lauer, Nicholas, "Chivalry and the Tournament in Chaucer's Knight's Tale; History, Subjectivity, and the Subaltern in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things" (2003). Honors Projects and Presentations: Undergraduate. 250.