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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The House of Fame, the hall of Fame is reminiscent of what Erving Goffman termed in his study of asylums a “total institution” during the Middle Ages. Modern institutions differ from the medieval monastery in both the willingness of the latter’s inmates to belong to it and the metaphysical and religious ideas that are its justification and purpose. In The Canterbury Tales, the Monk exhibits outrageous sophistry and an affiliation with other institutions. One lesson of the Monk’s portrait is the limits of the so-called institutional history of institutions. This article explores the relationship between institution and writing in the Middle Ages, when writing was not yet an institution. It considers writing as the act of instituting, a break with the homologies between institutional forms of inscription and tropes, or between the causes of literature and the pressures of an institution.

Keywords: Geoffrey Chaucer, The House of Fame, Erving Goffman, Middle Ages, institutional history, institutions, writing, literature

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