On Monday we continued our discussion of House of Fame, focusing on Book II. The House of Fame is considered a “Dream Vision” , a popular literary device in the the 14th and 15th century in which authors would recount a dream or vision.
Reality and Truth
Chaucer goes through many different events in Book II, but the subject that peaked my interest most in our discussion, was when we hit on truth verse reality. Chaucer has a dream within a dream and seems to be slipping further and further away from reality. When you are dreaming is that when your subconscious is allowed to be expressed? Are you actually getting closer to your own personal truth? Even though dreams usually have supernatural or impossible events happen, why do they feel so real? With all the study done on sleep and science we have in the 21st century, dreams still have the same mystery. If Chaucer really did have this dream or parts of it, it is a very personal and intimate part of himself he is choosing to share. This dream is almost a metaphor of how important out words are and also how information travels. Each time the words are passed they are changed, which shows how one rumor cause morph into a true story.
Throughout the semester we have talked about why Chaucer spoke of other authors in his other works or why he choose to write the Legend of Good Women. It is interesting to think of how people found out about books during that time. How did authors become prominent or famous? Was it by being mentioned by another author? One way to bring yourself into the conversation is to compare yourself to others or call others your friends. People assume that those of the same status, run in the similar circles, and have similar caliber. He mentions Alixandre Macedo, Daun Scipio, Ykarus, Kyng Nabugodonosor and others throughout the poem. He brings secular figures such as Alixandre Macedo and then figures from the bible, Kyng Nabugodonosor, all into the same arena. To me this represents Chaucer’s understanding that religious and non religious world is not so separate. During his time if you weren’t involved in the Church with everything you are doing, then you were basically a heathen. The world of God was different then the world others lived in. In reality everyone feels the same things, everyone searches for fulfillment, and everyone prays for love. From even how Chaucer portrays religion in the Canterbury Tales you feel he believes in God, but that he doesn’t believe in the way the Church is carrying out God’s love. In the House of Fame he continually mixes in elements of church with elements of mythology. He had understanding that was beyond his time.
“First shalt thou here where she duelleth,
And so thyn oune bok hyt tellith;
Hir paleys stant, as I shal seye,
Ryght even in myddes of the weye
Betwixen hevene, erthe, and see;
That what so ever in al these three
Is spoken, either privy or apert,
The way therto ys so overt,
And stant eke in so juste a place
That every soun mot to hyt pace,
Or what so cometh from any tonge,
Be hyt rouned, red, or songe,
Or spoke in suerte or in drede,
Certeyn, hyt moste thider nede.
In these lines from House of Fame, Book II, Chaucer talks about the placement of the house between Heaven and Earth and how the sounds that people make displace the air and travel through the house. A very complex idea that seems beyond the science of the Middle Ages. In general, the class’s perception of the middle ages was that it was dark, dull, and people were limited creatively. Literature and free thinking minds were stifled by the Church, the work done in secret. We do know the passions, thoughts, and work of the Middle Ages. We do not know what may have been burned, destroyed, and thrown away. We have a few works that have survived through the time and they show that people in the Middle Ages had dreams, intellectual thoughts, and creativity. Chaucer’s work alone shows what people were capable of.
Why was this class important?
On Wednesday our topic was to sum up what this class on Chaucer has meant to us this semester. Professor Wharton started by asking which works we liked or didn’t like, did we wish things had been in a different order, and how do we compare this to other literature classes we have taken. Everyone offered different opinions but the most interesting question she posed is one she has asked all semester long. Why is taking this LCC class important? Why do we study history at all? As a class we came up with a few different ideas.
For most engineering students at Tech, humanities can be a nice break from the rigorous math heavy class work involved in most of their classes. It works out a different part of the brain, causes you to use deductive reasoning and explain your ideas. This transfers into any one of us having a job and needing to convey our ideas to others. Aside from this, the famous saying knowledge is power holds true. The more we know about our surroundings, our past, the better decisions we can make about our future.
The last topic we discussed was whether we though Chaucer was the Father of English Literature. For me, I have not studied English literature, the middle ages, or history enough to say such a bold statement.
The final friday in class we worked on our digital project which is making a Wikipedia for our Chaucer Manuscript. We broke into our teams of Designers, Editors, Production, and Multimedia. Each team went over their deliverables for the project and what was expected individually of each member. These group projects expose your strengths and weakness and make you accountable for your work. Overall it seems the groups have worked well together and everyone holds up most of their share. The Digital Chaucer is something that will last beyond our classroom and has the potential to be used and added to by other scholars. That is something very special and unique we can all take away from the class. The work we did mattered.