‘So Hydous was the Noyse’:
Forgetting the 1381 Rebellion in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale
Since the medieval period, memory has been considered a site of identity formation and an important cultural force. Forgetting, on the other hand, has been dismissed because it seems impossible to study or recover what has already been forgotten. This study argues to the contrary. I focus on forgetting as a significant cultural practice, allowing the ruling classes and social institutions to perpetuate ideologies and manipulate how history is represented. In so arguing, I choose one of the most renowned events in medieval England as the subject of my study, which is the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. This Rebellion has been commemorated by many medieval authors, including Geoffrey Chaucer in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales. In this particular tale, I contend that Chaucer uses ‘everyday’ language and description of life in a rural village to erase the memory of the turbulence and boisterousness of the Revolt. Through this narrative of everyday life, the upheaval of the Revolt is forgotten and it is reduced to a story of another barnyard commotion.
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