Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

Well, I wouldn't have believed it possible, but today I read The Miller's Tale, one of the stories in the Canterbury Tales, and heartily enjoyed it.

It was an assigned reading for my English class, and we were supposed to consider the concepts learned over the past two weeks concerning different types of time. In the book we are reading - Imagined Communities - the author argues that all communities are imagined (didn't see that one coming, did ya?), because there is simply no way for us to meet everybody and like everybody within our community.

He then goes on to explain how there has been a transition from religious and dynastic communities to nationalistic community. For instance, nowadays if someone asks you "What are you?" you are more likely to say "American" or "British" (etc.) than you are to say "I am Christian" or "Hindu" (etc.)

This all connects into the Canterbury Tales because the author also discusses the different types of time. In religious time there is the concept of predestination and events are cyclical. In modern, national, time, we don't know what is going to happen, and one moment does not have more meaning than the last or the next. I don't know which one I agree with, but I do know that the concepts relate to different communities.

In The Miller's Tale, you know from the beginning that the wife is going to cheat on her husband, and you know that her lover is going to make a fool out of the husband so he can have her. It was predestined! (Oh my word I actually applied a concept learned in English class to a book! That has to be a first)

I loved this story. If you enjoy collections of short stories, and can find the side-by-side translation from Middle English, it is definitely worth the read.

What do you think? Do you think time is cyclical, or an empty yawning hole where we don't know what's at the bottom?

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