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The Minster and the Privy

The Minster and the Privy

Jews, Lending, and the Making of Christian Space in Chaucer’s England

Chapter:
(p.100) Chapter 3 The Minster and the Privy
Source:
The Accommodated Jew
Author(s):
Kathy Lavezzo
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501703157.003.0004

This chapter examines how the mapping of Anglo-Jewish residences placed Jews in intimate relation to the new urban geography that arose in tandem with commerce. Through an analysis of Geoffrey Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, which features Jews whose danger is as economic as it is religious, the chapter considers the notion of Jewish carnality that challenges received ideas of periodization. Chaucer contrasts the Christian minster where a boy martyr rests to arguably the most debased built environment imaginable, the abject space of a privy used by Jews. The latrine partly speaks to the tale's unique focus on moneylending as a specifically Jewish and allegedly filthy practice. By contextualizing the Prioress's Tale in terms of the cultures of sanitation, building, and lending with which Chaucer was closely associated, the chapter reads the latrine as a symptom of infrastructural flows that undermined any effort to conceive of a coherent Christian subject.

Keywords:   urban geography, Jews, commerce, Geoffrey Chaucer, Prioress's Tale, Jewish carnality, privy, moneylending, sanitation, building

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