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Donald Howards novel The Idea of the Canterbury Tale was published in 1976 and has become a cornerstone of Chaucerian Studies It is divided up into six chapters the idea of an Idea A Book About the World Style Memory and Form The Tales A Theory of Their Structure and The Pardoner and the Parson Instead looking at individual tales Howard looks at the work as an anatomy3 and in doing so states up front how different areas of the text have things in common that the form promotes repetition and discourages structure4 which can also be said of Howards lengthy and beneficial dissection of The Canterbury Tales What is detracts from the integrity of his argument is excessive enthusiasm written in first person in addition his use of second person narration is simply off putting What we can glean through Howards critical eye is using the premise devised by Northrop Fryes in Anatomy of Criticism that Chaucers The Canterbury Tales is unfinished but complete 1 Howard goes on to explain an idea of a literary work is not the same as intention which can be frustrated subverted or unconscious2 He creates a fictitious objector who interjects with question or opposing ideas that some will say 190 which Howard then rebuts though first person narration In his chapter on Memory and Form he says If what I have written sounds theoretical that is because what I have seen is itself abstract and complicated but my method is inductive and descriptive its spirit tentative and pragmatic 191 His analysis incorporates models which help in understanding connection in The Canterbury Tales however says they can limit us too191 This unique approach with a conversation tone draws the reader in with Howard knowledge of the complexity of The Canterbury Tales and his acknowledgement that it is indeed confusing to understand Howards The Idea of the Canterbury Tales synthesizes the confusion readers may encounter while understanding Chaucers The
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