Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Hewett-Smith

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna Crawford

Third Advisor

Dr. Elisabeth Gruner


This thesis investigates Chaucer's use of iconography and sight in The Prioress's Tale and The Second Nun's Tale and how these elements symbiotically support and enhance the text so that the tales themselves become iconic. An overview of medieval religious practices and doctrines is followed by a discussion of The Prioress's Tale, in which Chaucer's direct reference to a Virgin icon is explored. Further, the analysis focuses on the way in which visual cues supplement the meaning of the written word. A discussion of The Second Nun's Tale follows, exploring the relationship between sight and faith. The importance of sight as a unifying device is discussed as is the idea that sight and faith together work to engender finite, divine truth for the reader/listener. The conclusion forwards the notion that the tales are iconic because they draw the reader/listener toward the divine via an emphasis on icons and religious visual imagery.