Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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List of Illustrations

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p. ix

Abbreviations

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p. xi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

Attraction to Chaucer usually begins with the Canterbury Tales, an anachronistic introduction still honored in undergraduate curricula. By a quirk of fate, I came to know Chaucer as he perhaps came to know himself, during a maturing process that grew from energetic attractions and false starts into more thoughtful...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-7

“What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.” Bacon’s swift indictment of Pilate—that quintessential symbol of postlapsarian man, frivolous in the divine presence and smug in the belief that neither Christ nor truth matters—emphasizes the enormous difference between absolute reality...

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2. Book of the Duchess

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pp. 8-62

Readers in every age have as broad a range of motives for taking up a book as signs of enrichment when they finally put it down, yet they share one feature without question. To be told, at the outset of reading a mystery, say, that the butler did it would ruin their pleasure. The fascination of viewing a drama for the...

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3. Parliament of Fowls

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pp. 63-95

All modern editions of Chaucer’s work print his poems in the chronological order in which he is assumed to have composed them, and therefore follow the Book of the Duchess with the House of Fame. I prefer to turn next to the Parliament of Fowls. By doing so, I do not insist that Fowls was composed before...

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4. House of Fame

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pp. 96-124

The House of Fame may be the earliest and best example in English of a poem that went from the hand of the author directly into the hands of critics, almost completely bypassing its audience. A few decades after its completion, in a critical comment remarkable for both its insight and its misdirection, Lydgate would...

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5. The Missing Tidings of the House of Fame

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pp. 125-139

Critics generally assume that Chaucer had a plan in mind for the missing tidings of House of Fame but neglected to put his plan into verse. This chapter advances a very different suggestion, that Chaucer never planned for House of Fame anything beyond what is now extant. Compared with other Chaucerian poems...

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6. Troilus and Criseyde

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pp. 140-187

Previous chapters suggested that Chaucer’s early dream visions, regardless of the various topics they cover, share an interest in the technical concerns of literary composition—both how it is done and what it describes. These earlier poems place on record, albeit unsystematically, the poet’s attitude to such...

Appendix A: Parallel Structures of Duchess, Fowls, and Fame with its Tidings of Love

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pp. 189-191

Appendix B: The Golden Proportion

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pp. 193-196

Notes

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pp. 197-222

Works Cited

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pp. 223-234

Index

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pp. 235-239