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8–10, 15–16). As much of the scholarship on fourteenth-century literature and culture correctly asserts or implies, new social and intellectual structures of authority – to adapt Raymond Williams’ sociological term ‘structures of feeling’2 – were fundamentally challenging the shop-worn claims of clerical and aristocratic dominance (in the old Gelasian formulation, clerical auctoritas and royal potestas) and the traditional interlocking structure of society presumed on these bases. Society as a whole had no one secure ‘medium of power’.

The text produced by J. M. Manly and Margaret Rickert, which sought to provide definitive readings based on objective principles of manuscript collation and analysis, proved to be, in the words of George Kane, ‘the product of an immensely complex system of contingent hypotheses which seldom account for all the data and are sustainable only by the constant exercise of that editorial judgment which the editors set out to exclude’ (Ruggiers 1984: 210). Even the Robinson edition, arguably the most influential Chaucer edition ever printed, because of its wide dissemination and popularity, was, according to Reinecke, a monument to Ellesmere and to Robinson’s desire to print a ‘regularly scanned, craftsmanlike, artistically significant .

32 Andrew Galloway One response to the speech is to see it as imagining a pre-Christian philosophy, from which all sense of a ‘loving god’ is absent and in which the value of fame is supreme;18 another, as a blatant instance of using the cosmos to justify political domination by the ruling class, hence part of Chaucer’s criticism of such authority (Aers 1986: 29–32); another, as showing the speaker’s discomfort with such a scheme but his disenchanted acceptance of the disorder and death he simultaneously reveals, while for practical reasons he strives to offer the less hardened listeners an illusion of order governing such challenges to social stability (Leicester 1991: 363–76).

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