Kolve writes with such grace, it's just mindblowing. You can hear his voice in his prose, and it's just beautiful, seductive, almost. And gracious.
I love all the images, even though I'm not quite convinced so far by "The Merchant's Tale" reading (I'm halfway through the second chapter on the tale). The thing is, he writes so well that I want to be convinced.
The preface is marvelous in itself. There's a moment when he's talking about his work, when Kolve says that
In the opening pages of the final chapter, "God-Denying Fools"--an argument conceived, in imitation of Chaucer, as a modernist's "Retraction"--I privilege my personal situation for the first time, confessing to a dilemma I have never wholly resolved: how to teach and write "from within" Christian systems of thought wihtout appearing to acquiesce in beliefs I do not share. (xvii)It's the best statement of a real difficulty I have with teaching Chaucer, Shakespeare, early modern literature, in fact all literature that takes Christianity seriously as religious truth, and expresses just that difficulty. And it fits perfectly with the personal tone of the preface; it's Kolve's dilemma, and very personally his, but it also speaks to me.
In the introduction to the notes for chapter 3, Kolve quotes Donald Howard's essay "The Idea of a Chaucer course," "where he reflects on what he thinks our teaching is for
While there can never be agreement on methods [of teaching], there can be agreement on goals, and on this point I will risk being dogmatic.I'm thinking of using that as the introductory bit on my Chaucer syllabus. And yet, because of the rape record (and rapes in the tales), I have a more troubled sense of Chaucer than Howard seems to. Still, there is very much something to teaching Chaucer and reading Chaucer that's worth doing, I think.
The goal and idea of teaching The Canterbury Tales is to put the student in touch with the mind of Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer had a certain frame of mind, a way of looking at the world, which in our time we could use to our own great benefit if we could but grasp it. . . . [For there] are moments when we grasp with special clarity Chaucer's unique sanity--his impatience with cant and hypocrisy and with the posturings of seriousness, his sad tolerance for human orneriness, his humorous view of the world and of himself, his tragic and comic sense of self. This sanity is what we have in our power to offer students. (Donald R. Howard, "The Idea of a chaucer Course" in Approaches to Teaching Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, ed. Joseph Gibaldi [New York: Modern Language Association, 1980], pp. 61-62, qtd in Kolve, 278.)
(I thnk that my sense of how to teach patriarchal literature is much like my sense of how to deal with religion in literature. It's the same sort of difficulty for me.)
Now, off to try out my skis for a bit and then to read some more Kolve.
Kolve, V.A. Telling Images: Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative II. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2009.