Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

Emma Maggie Solberg


This two-chapter project applies formalist and feminist thinking to the thirty-line description of the Wife of Bath in Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval, British work The Canterbury Tales. It is an interdisciplinary project; it studies how to read and teach Chaucer at the secondary level based off of these two approaches. In this formalist chapter, I study narrative voice, rhyme, irony, and ekphrasis, writing about the history and function of each of those tools and their role in the passage. I argue that the formalist close reading approach is an excellent teaching tool that generates thorough, rigorous, and joyful reading. In this feminist chapter, I compile a critical literary history of scholarly feminist and pre-feminist engagement with the passage over time. I read into an underlying genotype text, arguing that the Wife of Bath was a female entrepreneur who used textiles as a means of social, professional, and aesthetic expression and empowerment. Then I advocate for a feminist ethical teaching approach—one where we use the text as a non-ethical space in which to explore ethical questions surrounding gender. Ultimately, I argue that feminist and formalist approaches are interdependent and complementary; for both reading and teaching Chaucer, they stand stronger together.