In class today, Dr. Seaman remarked that had we read Chaucer’s “Second Nun’s Tale” outside of the context of our class, we most likely would have had a completely different understanding and appreciation of the text. So I considered what my perception of this work would have been, which also brought me to contemplate the greater purpose of “Medieval Prime Time”.
Without this class as context, the Second Nun’s Tale would have seemed strange and foreign to me. Throughout our reading of Ashmole 61, we have discussed at great length the significance of religion in these literary works. From Sir Isumbras’ encounter with the deer speaking Jesus’ words to more didactic texts like “How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter” or “Maidstone’s Seven Penitential Psalms”, religion is demonstrated to be a major part of any medieval person’s life. However I, perhaps along with others in the class, was not that familiar with the extent of piety at this time, and often in previous classes I had been confused by the fantastical events that occurred in poems such as “The Dream of the Rood”. Yet this class was instrumental in settling my confusion over such elements of medieval literature; and now, reading this small bit of Chaucer, I approach the text in a completely different way and with a much broader understanding of the time period. Before, I would have found St. Cecilie’s ability to preach despite having had her neck partially severed ridiculous and impractical. Now, I look at the same words and recognize the importance of her continuing to preach as part of the qualities which characterize her as a saint.
This all ties into my perception of the purpose of our seminar. Such ideas are, I realize, what is expected of us in our extra credit opportunity, so I won’t expand too much on the subject. I will observe though that any reader of medieval texts should be able to do exactly what this class has taught me to do: approach the literature not as a reader from another time (although still recognizing it as a product of another time) but rather as a contemporary. In terms of the Second Nun’s Tale, this meant for me an ability to examine the piece for those qualities which made it interesting and purposeful to the medieval reader, and I think having everything I learnt from our class as a background helped me do just that.