Checkpoint 1:

Chaucer, The Prioress's Tale

Checkpoint 2:

Summary of The Prioress’s Tale The Prioress’s Tale is a religious story about a Christian boy, who overhears a song being sung by a group of Jewish boys while walking home from school. The Christian boy later learns that the song is called Alma Redemptoris, a song about the Virgin Mary, which makes him want to learn the song to sing for himself. Every day on his way home from school, he listens to the Jewish boys sing the song and slowly the Christian boy learns the words and starts to sing it for himself. He starts to sing the song loud and proud while walking home now. One day, Satan appeared to the Jewish boys and told them about this Christian boy singing the song. Satan told them that the boy singing is going against their Jewish laws. The Jewish boys then hire a murderer, and the murderer kills the Christian boy and throws him in a pit. When his widowed Mother starts looking for him, Jesus puts the location of the boy in her mind. When she finds him, he is still singing the song. The head of the city is called, and he orders the Jews to be executed. The boy continues singing until he is buried.
Annotated Bibliography

Schofield, William Henry. Chivalry In English Literature: Chaucer, Malory, Spenser and Shakespeare. Forgotten Books, 2015.
William Henry Schofield is credible due to him being an American Academic as well as the founder of Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature. This book goes into detail about Chaucer, the author of The Prioress’s Tale. The reading explains the character of Chaucer, how he grew up and what drove him to create such dark stories. Chaucer was a very well-liked man and had a talent for creating stories. He most definitely lead an unusual life, which added to his writings. when he was young he was imprisoned after stumbling into a skirmish, but was ransomed by the king. Chaucer's first work that stood out after the Duchess of Lancaster, the Queen's favorite daughter-in-law, died. In memory of her, Chaucer wrote this poem in memory of her. Overall, I learned more about the author and his thought processes behind some of his writings.
Lewis, Bernard. Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Lewis is regarded as “The West’s leading interpreter of the Middle East”. He has a PhD in history, specializing in Islam. He has many notable writings about conflict in the Middle East. This book in particular describes the conflict between Christians and Jews during the time period. Jews were seen as money craving demonic figures, who had no problem with murder. This is evident in my reading, where a group of Jewish boys killed a Christian boy because Satan told them to. Jews were always seen as evil beings in this time period, and it’s reflected in a lot of Chaucer’s writings.
Williams, George G. A New View of Chaucer. Duke University Press, 1965.
Williams is a professor of English at Rice University. He published several books, including The Blind Bull which won a first place prize from the Texas Institute of Letters. Williams wrote for academic journals as well. This book looks at Chaucer’s life in a different light. Williams took a biographical approach to Chaucer in this book. He personally felt that Chaucer’s style of poetry is a reconstruction of Chaucer’s own imaginative world. This would make sense, with his extreme scenarios and dark poetry.

Checkpoint 3

Friedman, Albert B. The "Prioress's Tale" and Chaucer's Anti-Semitism. Penn State University Press, 1974.
This article was cited in Emmy S. Zitter’s article “Anti-Semitism in Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale”. This article is written by Friedman, who was a scholar of medieval literature until his death. He taught at Claremont Graduate University for the 30 years before he died. His main focus of writing was ballads, and he was trained as a scholar of high-toned literary narrative. This article explains that The Prioress’s Tale is to the point with its meaning regarding anti-semitism and the tone of the story. He talks about the fact that the act of murder regarding Jews and Christians are one in the same, but Chaucer exaggerated the fact that the Jewish children had the Christian boy murdered because Satan told them to. Friedman goes on to explain that this act of murder would be highly unlikely and realistic due to the fact that the setting was in a Ghetto and the act was risky for Jews since the general society consisted of Christians who “grudgingly tolerated its existence.” This shows how anti-semitism was in the middle ages and how negatively it portrayed the Jews.
Zitter, Emmy Stark. Anti-Semitism in Chaucer's "Prioress's Tale". Penn State University Press, 1991.
This article cited Albert Friedman’s article on Anti-Semitism in Chaucer which explains the in depth answers for the exaggerated anti-semitism in The Prioress’s Tale. The article comes from the same source and publication as the prior article, so it’s a fresh perspective on the topic at hand. The fact that these aspects are the same makes the work credible due to the fact that the sources rely on one another and the publishers are the same. This can also be said for the last article. This article talks about how the anti-semitism in the story could be or is an ironic work of satire based on the idea of anti-semitism in Chaucer’s time period. Zitter further explains that if Chaucer actually intended for the story to criticize anti-semitism, he would not have made the story work so well the way that he did. The style of writing, the buildup to the plot, the story is more of a work of art than it is a message against Jews.
Archer, John. The Structure of Anti-Semitism in the "Prioress's Tale". Penn State University Press, 1984.
This article was also written using the same source as the others, The Chaucer Review. This article also cites the first article by Albert Friedman, and was also published by the Penn State University Press. All of these articles are linked together and reference different sections of the source, all having different perspectives on the same topic. This particular article examines the operation of the imagery in The Prioress’s Tale against the background of the tradition. The article explains in detail the views of each of it’s cited source, how they compare with each other as well as the views of Chaucer and the time period.

These articles are all using the same source and all looking at one specific topic which is Anti-Semitism in chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale. All of the articles make great points, including if the story was actually satire or irony based on the ideas of anti-semitism at the time, how the writing depicts the meaning and the story, as well as how the background of the time period effects the tone of the story. I know Chaucer is known for these types of stories, but I want to know if the story was genuinely made to be anti-semitic or if it was just to show how extreme it could be at the time? There are other extreme anti-semitic stories, blood libel , for example. The stories are very similar regarding the fact that they are both focused on Jews murdering children. It bring up the question, did Chaucer believe in his stories? Was he anti-semitic like his stories suggested? Or was it satire to show how extreme and unreasonable the stories are? All of these articles come from the same source, and are pretty similar in understanding. All of them have their own pieces that can be put together to create one bigger picture, which can include the reasoning behind the motives in the story and the answer to my original question. These articles all focus on the anti-semitism aspect of the story as well, so I’m happy to be able to focus on this one specific topic in Chaucer’s story.

Query My Query regarding Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale is to find out if the story was genuinely anti-Semitic or if it was to exaggerate the extremities of anti-Semitism during the time period. Zitter focused on this and explained that the style that Chaucer wrote with, the elements of pathos and ethos and the buildup to the plot, point towards the work as being more of a satire than a genuine anti-Semitic piece. I also want to know the extremety of Chaucer’s piece versus other pieces at the time. Is it a bit too extreme, or is it just right? To me it seems exaggerated, but anti-Semetism was a big deal in these times. John Archer’s article focuses on this aspect, tying the anti-Semetism during the time period to the actual piece Chaucer wrote. Archer’s article talks about Chaucer’s beliefs and prior writings compared to The Prioress’s Tale. The final part of my query is how realistic is The Prioress’s Tale anyways? Though anti-Semitism was a big deal, was it reasonable for any Jews to even commit any of these acts with the social status they had? Surely none of them could get away with it, since they seemed draw attention wherever they went. Friedman’s article touches on this as well as the similarities in religious beliefs between Christians and Jews. For example, murder was seen as a large sin in both religions.
Checkpoint 4
Alexander, Philip S. Madame Eglentyne, Geoffrey Chaucer, And the Problem of Medieval Anti-Semitism. Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester. Philip S. Alexander is a Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature, which is a good source of information on the topic of Chaucer and Anti-Semitism. He edited and translated “Textual Sources for the Study of Judaism”. He has published extensively in the area of Jewish Bible interpretation, early Jewish mysticism and magic as well as the history of Rabbinic Judaism. This book talks about how anti-Semitism in writings such as The Prioress’ Tale alters the way literature is read now and in the past. It talks about how the question of anti-Semitism in Chaucer’s Prioress’ Tale has become such a big issue that most contemporary readings of the text involve some sort of perspective on the issue. This reading helps me understand the gravity of the issue of anti-Semitism in the tale, and the effect it has on relating readings.
Besserman, Lawrence. Chaucer, Spain, And The Prioress' Anti-Semitism. English Department Hebrew University.
Besserman taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Besserman received a PhD from Harvard and he published many books and articles specifically on Chaucer and medieval subjects. Besserman was a member of the “New Chaucer Society”, which is an academic organization committed to the study of Chaucer and the Middle Ages. This book talks about how unlikely it would have been for Chaucer to have committed to his anti-Semitic views depicted in The Prioress’ Tale. It provides examples and information regarding Chaucer’s positive depictions of Jews. The reading further explains the fact that most reflections of The Prioress’ Tale regarding Chaucer’s anti-Semitic views tend to ignore these instances.
Besserman, Lawrence L. “Ideology, Antisemitism, and Chaucer's Prioress's Tale.” The Chaucer Review, vol. 36, no. 1, 2001, pp. 48–72., doi:10.1353/cr.2001.0019.
Besserman also wrote an article regarding the ideology behind the religious views of Chaucer. It goes on to explain different scholars and their particular views on Chaucer’s anti-Semitism and political accuracy. It goes on about why a politically incorrect view of Chaucer and his beliefs ruin the overall assessment of Chaucer’s works as a poet. One question it brings up is that even though Chaucer undoubtedly believed in God, what did he think of atheists? If someone has an ideology that Chaucer was an Atheist, it would be easy for them to overlook Chaucer’s poetry regarding religion and his ideals in general that go into his writing.

My argument is the fact that Chaucer did not actually subscribe to his beliefs of anti-Semitism despite his writing of The Prioress’ Tale. Besserman talks about Chaucer’s favorable depiction of Jews in two passages. One of the passages is from “The House of Fame” and the other being from the “Prologue to the Treatise on the Astrolabe”. The passages are commonly neglected when critics attempt to consider if Chaucer was actually anti-Semitic, which is a very common question when regarding The Prioress’ Tale (Besserman). Chaucer was a Christian, but I do not believe he was fully anti-Semitic. Emmy Stark Zitter talks about how if Chaucer was genuinely anti-Semitic and reflected that in The Prioress’ Tale, he would not have made it work so well. Specifically adding a buildup of pathos and emotion along with the tenderness of the opening lines in the Prologue. The tale is likely to have been an ironic work of satire towards anti-Semitism, bringing up a modern topic from the time period (Zitter). Chaucer’s The Prioress’ Tale could have been an appropriate take on the ideology of the time period but not an actual depiction of Chaucer’s own beliefs. The fact that Chaucer is such a talented poet is what brings up the question whether he was actually anti-Semitic or not, but I do not believe that he was. “A New View on Chaucer” by George Williams talks about how Chaucer’s The Prioress’ Tale was a story made up in Chaucer’s mind: his own imaginative world. This further proves that the story Chaucer created were not based off of his own personal beliefs, but a world fitting for the time period with a powerful message. If this world was made up in Chaucer’s own imagination, it’s very possible that the message was more important to him than the beliefs he had himself. This also emphasizes the fact that he was more focused on creating an satirical story with good story elements (Williams). This argument is the biggest question regarding The Prioress’ Tale, with many critics asking whether it is true that Chaucer was anti-Semitic or not. I intend to give my own unbiased take on the idea, regarding other perspectives on why others believe he was or was not anti-Semitic.

Argument against a Scholarly Article

Albert Friedman’s article, “The ‘Prioress’ Tale’ and Chaucer’s anti-Semitism” talks about how the act of murder regarding Jews and Christians are one in the same, but Chaucer exaggerated the fact that the Jewish children had the Christian boy murdered because Satan told them to. Friedman goes on to explain that this act of murder would be highly unlikely and realistic due to the fact that the setting was in a Ghetto and the act was risky for Jews since the general society consisted of Christians who “grudgingly tolerated its existence.” I disagree with his statement of how Chaucer exaggerated the story by having Satan force them to murder the boy. This wasn’t exaggeration in the sense of anti-Semitic works during the time period, most anti-Semitic stories were exaggerated in general. Since I believe Chaucer wasn’t genuinely anti-Semitic and the story was based on his imagination, the fact that he would include something like Satan talking to the Jewish kids doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. In Alexander’s reading, he says “Judaism is inferior to Christianity; the Jews, motivated by malevolence, and in alliance with the powers of darkness, are seeking to overthrow Christian society; the Church, in the interests of humanity, has a sacred duty to protect society from the baleful influence of the Jews and Judaism” (Alexander). This quote emphasizes the ideas of the time period, which is a good source as to why Chaucer used these ideals in his tale with the exaggerations that he did. The story was exaggerated to convey the message of the time period, not to realistically depict how Jews acted at the time.