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The Wife of Bath: A Biography

The Wife of Bath: A Biography

Marion Turner

Princeton University Press



Hardcover with dust jacket

22 x 15 x 3

336 pages

Normaler Preis 29,90 €
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Ever since her triumphant debut in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath, arguably the first ordinary and recognisably real woman in English literature, has obsessed readers—from Shakespeare to James Joyce, Voltaire to Pasolini, Dryden to Zadie Smith. Few literary characters have led such colourful lives or matched her influence or capacity for reinvention in poetry, drama, fiction, and film. In The Wife of Bath, Marion Turner tells the fascinating story of where Chaucer’s favourite character came from, how she related to real medieval women, and where her many travels have taken her since the fourteenth century, from Falstaff and Molly Bloom to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

A sexually active and funny working woman, the Wife of Bath, also known as Alison, talks explicitly about sexual pleasure. She is also a victim of domestic abuse who tells a story of rape and redemption. Formed from misogynist sources, she plays with stereotypes. Turner sets Alison’s fictional story alongside the lives of real medieval women—from a maid who travelled around Europe, abandoned her employer, and forged a new career in Rome to a duchess who married her fourth husband, a teenager, when she was sixty-five. Turner also tells the incredible story of Alison’s post-medieval life, from seventeenth-century ballads and Polish communist pop art to her reclamation by postcolonial Black British women writers.

Entertaining and enlightening, funny and provocative, The Wife of Bath is a one-of-a-kind history of a literary and feminist icon who continues to capture the imagination of readers.


"The history of women in the Middle Ages is fraught with uncertainties, especially when it comes to source material and authorship; Turner unfurls this complexity in elegant, quietly angry prose, grounded in deep scholarly research. . . . Turner’s biography of Alison of Bath demonstrates the stunning resonance of medieval prejudice in the present."—Erin Maglaque, New York Times Book Review

"Those who foreground alternative voices must reach for innovative forms and reworkings of genre. Turner does this brilliantly, allowing Alison of Bath to speak for the legions of contemporary women otherwise silenced by history."—Daisy Hay, Financial Times

"Turner’s immensely entertaining ‘biography’ will make you fall in love with the Wife of Bath, whom she crowns ‘the first ordinary woman in English literature.’ . . . Wonderfully accessible and briskly entertaining."—Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Turner writes from a feminist perspective, but she is not a presentist—the kind of person who faults the past for failing to live up to the standards, or some people’s standards, of the present. . . . You are grateful for Turner’s thoroughness. She is especially adept at drawing meaning not only from characters’ similarities but also from their differences."—Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

"An intriguing combination of the fantastically bawdy and the deadly serious. . . . Thrilling."—Katy Guest, The Guardian
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