"The Carnival in the Maze": Classical and Courtly Perspectives on Life and Love in Chaucer's Dream Vision Poetry Open Access

Jones, Andrew W. (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/c534fp29x?locale=en


In the decades preceding his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer experimented with different forms of poetry while serving as a diplomat in the court of Edward III. Between 1368 and 1381, Chaucer wrote three poems in the style of the medieval dream vision: Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls. In each of the three poems, the dreamer comes from a place of anxiety concerning love. The dreamer then encounters a story from a well-known Roman author, which provokes subconscious meditation on love when the dreamer falls asleep. In this thesis, I connect the structural parallels existing between the poems to courtly and classical traditions, with the courtly perspective of fin amors reflecting "earthly love" (or corporeal love) and the classical perspectives of Stoicism and Neoplatonism reflecting "spiritual love" (or incorporeal love). The dichotomy that emerges between corporeal desire and incorporeal inclination appears irreconcilable in all three of the poems. However, upon analyzing the bathetic endings of the poems, only Parliament of Fowls approaches a remedy for confronting the mysterious realm of love. As such, I argue that Parliament of Fowls rests as the consummation of Chaucer's toils with love-based anxiety in Book of the Duchess and House of Fame, both of which preceded Parliament of Fowls in their dates of completion. Ultimately, I show how Chaucer expresses the futility of subscribing to established traditions and philosophies when seeking guidance in the "maze" of varying opinions on conduct in love.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Introduction---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1 Chapter 1: Unreliable Dreams and Moral Meditation Section 1: The Gates of Horn and Ivory--------------------------------------------------------9 Section 2: Macrobius, Hugh of St. Victor, and Chaucer's Dream Vision Structure-----------11 Section 2a: Earthly Love-------------------------------------------------------------------------12 Section 2b: Reading and Moralizing in the Realm of the Subconscious-----------------------16 Chapter 2: Traditions Behind Earthly Love and Heavenly Love Section 1: Fin Amors of Andreas Capellanus and "comun profit" of Africanus---------------27 Section 1a: Fin Amors and Communal Profit in Book of the Duchess and House of Fame--32 Section 2: Apatheia versus Passio from a Structuralist Standpoint--------------------------40 Chapter 3: The Music of the Spheres Section 1: The "Fideistic Transcendence of Doubt"--------------------------------------------47 Section 2: Bathos in Book of the Duchess and House of Fame-------------------------------52 Section 3: Passio, Augustine's Three Levels of Music, and Hugh's Compromise-------------57 Section 4: Music and Bathos in Parliament of Fowls-------------------------------------------61 Conclusion----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------64 Bibliography--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------66

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