I Alisoun, I Wife: Foucault’s Three Egos and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue
Baumgardner, Rachel Ann
Medieval Forum Vol.5 (2006)
Throughout the body of feminist criticism that surrounds the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, two opposing schools of thought have emerged: those who believe that she is a representative of early feminist thought and action, and those who believe that Alisoun is nothing more than a pawn, skillfully played to satisfy male desires and fantasies. Out of this division emerges a critical dilemma centering on whether or not the Wife of Bath can be considered as a subject for feminist thought at all, since “she” is, essentially, the creation of a male mind: Geoffrey Chaucer. This essay attempts to prove the Wife of Bath’s position as a fully realized character within her Prologue, independent of Chaucer. Employing Michel Foucault’s theories on authorship found within his work “What is an Author?,” this essay will show that the Wife of Bath manipulates the majority of voices heard within her Prologue, thereby supplying her with agency that allows for the feminist critical study of her as an autonomous character.