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Playing DirtySexuality and Waste in Early Modern Comedy$
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Will Stockton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816674596

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816674596.001.0001

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The Pardoner’s Dirty Breeches

The Pardoner’s Dirty Breeches

Cynicism and Kynicism in The Canterbury Tales

(p.97) 5 The Pardoner’s Dirty Breeches
Playing Dirty

Will Stockton

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for a model of queer sociality and argues against the critical tendency to view the Pardoner as a kind of queer hero. Although the Pardoner admits that his relics are fraudulent, he encourages the pilgrims’ belief in their power. The Host’s scatological rebuke of the Pardoner is a symptom of how the Pardoner’s performance calls into question the orthodox faith in sublimation, or the correspondence of a material object with what Jacques Lacan terms the ineffable Thing (das Ding). The Pardoner’s cynical participation with spiritual corruption further raises the question of what queer ideology critique should look like in the age of cynical reason. Perhaps Chaucer can find an answer in kynicism: a bawdy, bodily strategy for deflating and debunking ideology that derives from the Greek “antiphilosopher” Diogenes.

Keywords:   Canterbury Tales, Jacques Lacan, the Pardoner, sublimation, cynicism, Geoffrey Chaucer, Diogenes, queer ideology critique

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