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Romancing Ethics in Boethius, Chaucer, and Levinas: Fortune, Moral Luck, and Erotic Adventure

Romancing Ethics in Boethius, Chaucer, and Levinas: Fortune, Moral Luck, and Erotic Adventure ORTUNE HAS LONG BEEN TREATED as an inconsequential cliché, an ideological concealment, or a negative theology whenever it appears in medieval literature. Rarely is it taken seriously on its own terms to signify something genuinely fortuitous or aleatory, even though poets and their fictional creations in courtly lyrics and romances typically understood the figure in just this way. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1382-86) is representative. Fortune propels the narrative forward—the story of love won and lost is roughly analogous to a revolution of the Wheel of Fortune—and gives shape not only to the outcome of the affair but also to its ethical and political meanings (cf. Windeatt 181; Ganim 79-102). Moreover, the characters depend upon such reversals of fortune. Pandarus, with his infectious optimism and fraternal affection, effectively consoles Troilus by assuring him of the mutability of Fortune, “That, as hire joies moten overgon,/So mote hire sorwes passen everechon” (1.846-7).1 Chaucer added such passages to the materials he found in in Boccaccio’s Filostrato, amplifying and enriching the original Italian love story and raising the stakes on the moral and metaphysical issues involved. Pandarus’s sentiment, present in all kinds of medieval courtly literature, attests to love’s dependency http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Romancing Ethics in Boethius, Chaucer, and Levinas: Fortune, Moral Luck, and Erotic Adventure

Comparative Literature , Volume 57 (2) – Jan 1, 2005

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2005 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/-57-2-101
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

ORTUNE HAS LONG BEEN TREATED as an inconsequential cliché, an ideological concealment, or a negative theology whenever it appears in medieval literature. Rarely is it taken seriously on its own terms to signify something genuinely fortuitous or aleatory, even though poets and their fictional creations in courtly lyrics and romances typically understood the figure in just this way. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1382-86) is representative. Fortune propels the narrative forward—the story of love won and lost is roughly analogous to a revolution of the Wheel of Fortune—and gives shape not only to the outcome of the affair but also to its ethical and political meanings (cf. Windeatt 181; Ganim 79-102). Moreover, the characters depend upon such reversals of fortune. Pandarus, with his infectious optimism and fraternal affection, effectively consoles Troilus by assuring him of the mutability of Fortune, “That, as hire joies moten overgon,/So mote hire sorwes passen everechon” (1.846-7).1 Chaucer added such passages to the materials he found in in Boccaccio’s Filostrato, amplifying and enriching the original Italian love story and raising the stakes on the moral and metaphysical issues involved. Pandarus’s sentiment, present in all kinds of medieval courtly literature, attests to love’s dependency

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2005

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