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Chaucer And The "House Of Fame". Discusses The Cultural Nature Of Fame And Its Textual Expression With Reference To Oral Heroic Poetry And The Modern Construction Of The Canon Of English Literary Trad

2109 words - 8 pages

QUESTION 7.DISCUSS THE CULTURAL NATURE OF FAME AND ITS TEXTUALEXPRESSION WITH REFERENCE TO ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:ORAL HEROIC POETRY, CHAUCER'S DEPICTION IN THE HOUSE OF FAMEAND THE MODERN CONSTRUCTION OF THE CANON OF ENGLISHLITERATURE.YOU SHOULD FOCUS YOUR ANALYSIS ON THE INTERPLAY OF ORALAND LITERARY TRADITIONS IN THESE CONTEXTS.Many critics have noted the complexities within Chaucer's The House of Fame, inparticular, the complexities between the oral and the literary. The differences betweenthese methods are constantly appearing; Chaucer is well aware of rapidly changingcommunicative practises and contrasts the preservation of utterance with the longevityof literary texts. He achieves this by discussing the nature of 'Fame' and thedifficulties that arise from it. 'Fame' can both destroy and create. It can result in theeternal preservation of great works and their creators. However, Chaucer is quick tonote the precarious nature of 'fame' noting the unreliable process of attaining it and itspotentially momentary existence. Every creator with their respective work/s naturallycrave and desire 'fame'; they want their subjects to remain fresh in the minds of theiraudience. Chaucer, while neither totally praising the written nor the oral, reveals howessentially the written word is far more likely to become eternal as opposed to the oral.The relative 'fame' of any work is dependent on many factors. Many traditional andclassical ideas result in the formation of the English canon, yet as Chaucer indicates,the 'fame' of these works can easily become annihilated. The arrival of new readerswith different ideals and thereby changing tradition, can reject classical or 'canonical'work and their 'fame' will melt into nothingness.Most stories, histories and legends that emerge from oral heroic poetry are toherald the achievement of the powerful and wealthy so that their histories will not fadefrom the memories of the population. The stories of Beowolf are a clear example ofthis, as within these stories, (whether embellished or no), Beowolf's fame and legendreaches the modern reader hundreds of years later. Clearly, Beowolf is still very muchdependant on the conventions of oral traditions and written to leave a permanentreminder of Beowolf, to enforce Beowolf's fame. The use of 'Hwaet' to mark thestart of an oration, emphasises the continuation of oral tradition. Most oral cultures(usually illiterate), pass on stories and legends learnt from the previous generation,basically using the authority of recalled memory, not as an actual witness; rather 'Ihave heard it said` than 'I know this to be true`.The importance of the terms 'auctor` and 'auctoritas' is noted by A.J. Minnis.Minnis states the importance of the 'auctoritas', quoting Aristotle who defines this asthe 'judgement of the wise man in his chosen discipline.' The great reverence andrespect shown towards writers of antiquity is clearly evident in Chaucer's The Houseof Fame, yet there remains a...

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