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Kissing the Pardoner

Glenn Burger
PMLA
Vol. 107, No. 5 (Oct., 1992), pp. 1143-1156
DOI: 10.2307/462870
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462870
Page Count: 14
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Kissing the Pardoner
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Abstract

The conceptual dominance of the "heterosexual" in modern thinking has conditioned us, when we consider the Canterbury Tales, to think about the Pardoner and his audience in essentialist terms. The Pardoner and the Host's kiss, however, stills and defers attempts by the masculine gaze of Harry and the "redeemed" pilgrims to control what the Pardoner means. By returning meaning to circulation, the kiss provides an instance in which the Pardoner's body can do more than simply deconstruct categories or gesture elsewhere for meaning. Offering an alternative view of the Pardoner's supposed "destructive otherness," this essay suggests that his true import lies not in his alterity but in his similarity to the other pilgrims and ultimately to us as readers-in short, that the Pardoner constitutes the "open secret" of the Canterbury project.

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