UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Queer ecology and medieval nature : a botanical study of Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale Cosh, Alexander Charles


This thesis is a botanical reading of Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale. Focusing on the climactic scene in which May, the young bride of January, declares her “sore” desire for “smale peres green” before engaging in adulterous sex with her husband’s servant, Damian, I intersect object-oriented ontological theory with aspects of medieval botany to garner an understanding of Chaucer’s ecological thought. Through this approach, I find that Chaucer demonstrates sensitivity to what Timothy Morton and Mel Chen describe as “queer ecology”: an emerging branch of eco-theory which explores queer challenges to heteronormativity in non-human ecologies and objects. In this way, Chaucer presents an important challenge to the church definitions of “Nature”—particularly as it was defined in Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologicae—that emerged during the thirteenth century. Thus, this thesis contributes to ongoing studies of animacy and non-human ecologies in medieval literature and complicates Timothy Morton’s exclusion of non-moderns from contemporary ecological theory.

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