The Book of the Duchess and Other Poems

The Personal and Private in Medieval Dream Visions

"The dream-vision appears personal and private." Discuss

Despite their frequent internal contradictions and their transitive, pseudo-empirical character, dreams can make inexplicably authoritative claims to factuality. Accordingly, the dream-vision writers of the late medieval period recognised that the dream-world's transcendental interiority presented them with a conceptually uninhibited and immediate setting for fantastic secular allegory and religious mysticism. Although every dream-vision appears personal on a basic level through the necessity of an I-persona to recount the events involved, the presence of the text itself as an object of dissemination must limit any notion of privacy. It may be contended, however, that the first-person narrative serves primarily to create verisimilitude through an analogy between the naturally occurring dreams of the reader and the poetically constructed account of the dream-vision. The extent to which dream-visions are individual and subjective experiences can best be explored through an analysis of specific texts from the period.

Geoffrey Chaucer's (c.1345-1400) "The Parliament of Fowls" is a classic dream-vision, with the dreamer becoming an involuntary witness...

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