Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Medieval & Early Modern Studies

First Advisor

Carol Ann Johnston

Second Advisor

Tom Reed

Third Advisor

Melinda Schlitt




The essay that follows this Preface has little to do with the question I set about answering in January of 2013 when I first sat down to write about relics, rhetoric, Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale,” and Boccaccio’s Decameron character Frate Cipolla. As I delved into the “Pardoner’s Tale,” looking at how the Pardoner treated his relics and how he presented them to his audiences, I realized that the Pardoner’s words meant different things to different people and that this idea was a primary focus of the text. I also realized that the process of denoting particular meanings to particular audiences mimicked the workings of any literary text. It is no groundbreaking discovery to learn that a text— that the words of a text— contain multiple layered meanings, but the processes by which those meanings are constructed became my grounded interest over the course of this project. Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale” has everything to do with multiple meanings that inhere within a passage of text, but the proper format to treat such a meta-textual focus—that is, a text whose meaning is about the creation of textual meaning—remained a troubling question for the duration of this process. In addition, the subject of the discourses I investigate, relics as they existed for the Pardoner, Frate Cipolla, and in Chaucer’s England, demonstrated the same need for a theoretical approach as multivalent as the relationships I set out to understand.