The Pardoner’s Passing and How It Matters

Gender, Relics and Speech Acts

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Cambridge
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This article looks again at the figure of the Pardoner in the Canterbury Tales and reconsiders the possibility that ‘he’ is a woman passing as a man. The importance of such a reading is revealed by exploring the anxieties this raises over the relationship between outward appearance and inner substance or reality, and demonstrating parallels with medieval anxieties over the authenticity of relics and the validity of religious speech acts, including those involved in the transubstantiation of the elements of the Eucharist.

Contributor Notes

Alex da Costa is a Senior Lecturer in the English Faculty, University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on incunabula and early printed books meant for an English readership.


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