THE FIGURE OF THE WAYWARD NUN IN LATE MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: THE AMBIGUOUS PORTRAITS OF THE ARCHPRIEST OF HITA'S DONA GAROZA AND CHAUCER'S MADAME EGLENTYNE (ENGLAND, SPAIN)
DAICHMAN, GRACIELA SUSANA
Doctor of Philosophy
The literary figure of Dona Garoza, the ambiguous nun of the Archpriest of Hita's Libro de Buen Amor and that of Madame Eglentyne, the controversial prioress of the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, have been the object of scholarly scrutiny for a long time, especially in this century. The problem concerns the tone with which each woman is described; is the author mildly chastising the nun or is he damning her? In the case of Dona Garoza, critics have interpreted her in three ways: as a gentle, mildly sinning creature, as a religious failure, and as an intentionally ambiguously drawn character with both characteristics, painted thus to entertain the reader. Interestingly enough, the same three ways of interpreting Chaucer's Prioress also exist. In order to determine how Chaucer and the Archpriest of Hita regarded their nuns, it is necessary to understand how the fourteenth century would have regarded them, and whether these nuns were exceptional or typical in their faults. Such apparently ambiguous literary portraits of the two nuns are in reality satirical. The present study is an attempt to place the portraits in the proper perspective, as heirs to a long and distinguished tradition of literary wayward nuns whose real-life counterparts date back to the beginnings of monasticism. In an effort to prove our contention that, far from being an isolated literary occurrence, the wayward nun in medieval literature is the reflection of the one in the nunnery, special attention will be given in this study to those works where profligate nuns seem to have been drawn almost directly from the pages of the visitation reports by the bishops of the convents in their dioceses. Different from the studies offering a general picture of the life of the professed woman in the Middle Ages, the emphasis here will be on the evidence of immodest or dishonorable behavior in the nunnery observed through the centuries by those who felt it their duty to record it, reprove it, or mock it.