In this section, the narrator spends a large amount of time describing in detail the three temples for the gods that Theseus has constructed. What do you think these descriptions have to say about the gods they represent? For example, what does the construction of the temple for Venus have to say about courtly love?
For every good scene in the tale’s first two parts, it seems that a bad one quickly follows i. It opens with Theseus’ victorious march home, but then shows the grieving widow’s troubles, which leads to the return of their husbands’ bodies, but also to Palamon and Arcite’s imprisonment, and so on. What other instances are there of Fortune behaving in a manner similar to this? What do the characters, specifically Palamon and Arcite, have to say about Fortune in regards to their own lives? Is the tale trying to say something here about the relationship between Fortune and free will?
The Introduction notes that there has been a signal of a shift in “the reception of Chaucer’s poetry; earlier he had elevated”our” language to new heights of golden rhetoric, but now he is distanced, likened to classic poets of another time and language” (22). Why is the distinction between Chaucer as “father” and as “master” so important to scholars? Why is it important for us in studying Chaucer now?
In the General Prologue Chaucer describes the different characters that will be taking this pilgrimage to Canterbury. How does he choose to go about describing these characters? Do they seem to fit the ideal for their profession or place in society? Why do you think he chose to depict them this way?
In the article Lears states that the poem is cyclical and by the end “the poem seems to go nowhere, condemning the Black Knight, the Dreamer, and the reader to an endless reiteration of this tale of melancholy and grief.” Do you find any problems with this statement in relationship with The Book of the Duchess? Why or why not?
Lears considers the relationship between the Dreamer and the Knight as both an act of confession and that of gossip. How do either interpretations effect the lamentation by the Knight for Lady White?
At the end of the poem, the speaker wakes up and claims that the dream he has had is so ‘curious’ that he must put it in writing. What elements of the dream vision does Chaucer exhibit and how does that impact the overall message of the story? Basically, how would this story differ if there wasn’t the presence of a dream narrative?
The forward of this section asks “Does he merely pretend to ignorance as a strategy for drawing out the ailing knight?…or, are we meant to take the dreamer’s obtuseness straight?” (5). What examples are there in the text for either argument? Further, the forward speculates Chaucer’s voice for the female characters of the story (or lack thereof). What do you make of this, given the things in Chaucer’s own life we talked about last class along with evidence in the poem?
Consider the two biographical texts you read for Thursday (the first two items on the schedule: one a section of the introduction to the Broadview Canterbury Tales, the other by Holsinger in the Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales). What do you think is the larger purpose of each text? How does that purpose influence the style and method of each text? And in the end, how does each text encourage you to think about its subject, Geoffrey Chaucer?
We’re going to have a great time this semester hanging out with Chaucer and a number of his fans (academics and poets and fiction writers), and I’m working to provide some opportunities to read, think, write, and create that might make a fan of you, too, by the end of it.
Everything for the course is here on the course blog, with OAKS used rarely and only for submitting certain assignments.
We’ll meet Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 12:15 in Maybank 119 and get the party started. See you then! And if you have any questions in the meantime, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.