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"In Sondry Forms": Dreams and Truth in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde


The desire to understand a literary text often translates into a desire to neatly categorize meaning; and by consequence, to flatten the complexity of the work through oversimplification. This is true for both casual readers and literary critics—and, as demonstrated in this paper, for interpreters of dream visions. Yet some elusive texts slip out of reach, instead mystifying and elevating the literary genre. Geoffrey Chaucer's work Troilus and Criseyde, an exquisite retelling of the Troy myth, subverts the formal employment of dream visions common to medieval writing. This paper attempts to illuminate the genius of the two major dream scenes in this work through the analytic frameworks of Stephen Kruger and Valerie Ross. To offer a more comprehensive picture of Chaucer’s career, this paper also explores how he incorporates dreams in other key works. By way of this investigation, I find that the natural obscurities surrounding unconscious dreamspace allows Chaucer to access—and challenge—readers' conceptions of narrative epistemology, thereby achieving both authorial agency and critical liberation. Understanding Chaucer's stylistic legacy within his oeuvre and the larger English canon grants unique insight to even a contemporary reader’s personal relationship to liminality.

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