Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Hewitt-Smith


This examination of Chaucer's Merchant's Tale was undertaken as a response to existing scholarship. While criticism in the past tended toward a literal reading of the text, viewing it as a misogynist Merchant's story attesting to the innate depravity of women, more recent feminist criticism has leaned toward a reading which endeavors to defend the actions of May, claiming an evolvement on her part towards autonomy and self-knowledge. This thesis, taking its cue from French feminist theoretical assertions concerning self, refutes both of these readings. While it acknowledges the subversive nature of May's actions, it is unable to recognize any attainment of subjecthood on her part. Having a masculine engendered identity forced upon her, May eventually learns to accept and imitate those values which had initially been used to define her as object or Other, locking herself in the dualistic structure which confined her in the first place.