Date of Award

8-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Laura L. Howes

Committee Members

Tom Heffernan, Tom Burman, Joe Trahern

Abstract

Models of medieval reading often describe a process that divorces emotion from intellect or that sees the reader in a position of dominance over the text. This project examines rēden, with its overlapping meanings of interpretation, counsel, advice, and control, and reading scenes in Chaucer’s early dream visions and Troilus and Criseyde. In these poems. Chaucer uses rēden to question and reassess acts of reading as an interactive process between text and reader. In the Book of the Duchess, reading is emotive interpretation that consoles neither the narrator nor the Black Knight. The House of Fame explores reading and textual production in the story of Dido and Aeneas, Fame’s decisions, and the tidings in the House of Rumor. The Parliament of Fowls illustrates how multiple forms of advice can lead nowhere. By drawing upon prior texts in setting out the above ideas, Chaucer also points to disagreement with the texts upon which he draws. Troilus and Criseyde, which contains a greater number of readers, expands ideas contained in the dream visions. In treating Criseyde as a text, the narrator’s, Pandarus’, and Troilus’ readings attempt to control her, yet Criseyde resists and offers texts that prove difficult to interpret or control. The narrator demonstrates that stories are conflicting, unsatisfying, unruly, and even capable of betraying an author. Rather than separating intellect and emotion, Chaucer’s reading scenes assert the conjunction of the two and the interactivity of reader and text: readers can rewrite a text, but they cannot escape the source—there is neither liberty from, nor a tyranny of tradition.

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