Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01hd76s019m
 Title: Theories of the Nonsense Word in Medieval England Authors: Kirk, Jordan Advisors: Heller-Roazen, Daniel Contributors: Comparative Literature Department Keywords: BoethiusCloud of UnknowingGeoffrey ChaucerMaterial SuppositionNonsenseWalter Burley Subjects: Comparative literatureMedieval literatureLogic Issue Date: 2013 Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Abstract: This dissertation is a study of medieval theories of the nonsense word. I establish how Aristotle's account of utterance underwent a major alteration in its transmission to the Middle Ages, such that the human voice came to be conceived of as in the first instance a non-signifying noise. I then examine the reception of this philosophical innovation in the logic, devotion, and poetry of fourteenth-century England. In chapters on Oxford logic, on the contemplative treatise the Cloud of Unknowing, and on Geoffrey Chaucer's dream vision the House of Fame, I uncover the philosophical stakes of what I take to be a fourteenth-century preoccupation with nonsense. The first chapter establishes that the sixth-century Roman scholar Boethius introduced a new idea of vox, or utterance, as fundamentally nonsensical in his translations of and commentaries on Aristotle's De interpretatione. The second chapter traces the inheritance of this idea in the Oxford logic of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, and shows how although logicians attempted to banish nonsense words from their discipline, they were forced to confront them in the phenomenon of what they called material supposition, when a term stands for itself in a proposition. The third chapter proposes that the technique of prayer described in the Cloud of Unknowing consists in the production of a nonsense word through repetition, and that this technique--foreign to the mystical tradition in which the treatise is usually placed--is an elaboration of possibilities disclosed in the logical materials discussed in the dissertation's first half. The fourth and final chapter, on the House of Fame, argues that Chaucer revises academic theories of vox into a theory of tydynges, or rumors, in which it is nonsense that allows for speech to emerge from a state of dumbness proper to the poet. URI: http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01hd76s019m Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.) Language: en Appears in Collections: Comparative Literature

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat
Kirk_princeton_0181D_10782.pdf13.78 MBAdobe PDF

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.