"Don't Excommunicate the Messenger": Humor, Authorial Responsibility, and Religious Commentary in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Tales of Canterbury and Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quijote de La Mancha

Date
2020
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
Producer
Director
Performer
Choreographer
Costume Designer
Music
Videographer
Lighting Designer
Set Designer
Crew Member
Funder
Rehearsal Director
Concert Coordinator
Moderator
Panelist
Alternative Title
Department
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Comparative Literature Program
Type
Thesis
Original Format
Running Time
File Format
Place of Publication
Date Span
Copyright Date
Award
Language
eng
Note
Table of Contents
Terms of Use
Rights Holder
Access Restrictions
Open Access
Tripod URL
Identifier
Abstract
This thesis explores the utilization of humor to address religious tensions in the medieval texts Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes and The Tales of Canterbury by Geoffrey Chaucer. Are authors using humor to create a sense of irony and thus criticize the current social order? Are they making a joke because they know they said something problematic and want to remove authorial responsibility from themselves? The thesis primarily focuses on the employment of satirical humor as a means of offering critiques of certain religious social structures. By exploring the historical contexts of both of these works, my research draws a connection between what was considered funny at the time and the religious social commentaries that each of the texts offer. Through the investigation of humor and satire theories, I investigate the interplays between social superiority, relief of social tension, authorial responsibility, objects of mockery, and social commentary. I argue that Chaucer utilizes humor to increase the social tension within the Catholic church, whereas Cervantes uses comedy to reduce the division between Christians and Muslims. Additionally, Chaucer employs meta-literary humor to remove authorial responsibility from himself, which allows him to make jokes that are considered scandalous while maintaining a role as a simple "messenger." On the other hand, Cervantes' meta-literary moments actually place more accountability on himself, but still create a relief of social tension. Both Chaucer and Cervantes are comedic masterminds of their own eras, but the historical contexts of each of these tales play a role in what each of the authors can joke about, what they can and cannot get away with, and what kinds of religious social commentaries they can deliver.
Description
Citation