BOOK OF THE DUCHESS                 

[Cross-references included at the bottom of the page]


813. BLAKE, N.F. "The Textual Tradition of the Book of the Duchess." English Studies 62 (1981):237-48.

Describes the textual history of Book of the Duchess and discusses significant variants among the three manuscripts and Thynne's early edition, challenging the authenticity of lines 31-96, 288, and 886 derived from Thynne and accepted by modern editors.

814. BOARDMAN, PHILLIP C. "Courtly Language and the Strategy of Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." ELH: Journal of English Literary History 44 (1977):567-79.

Explains the narrator's inability to understand the Black Knight's courtly laments of Book of the Duchess as an undercutting of facile poetic consolation. Chaucer simultaneously commemorates the lady and exposes the inability of courtly language to console by posing a blunt recognition of death and a consequent confrontation with the transitory nature of human life.

815. BRONSON, BERTRAND H. "The Book of the Duchess Re-opened." PMLA 67 (1952):863-81. Reprinted in Chaucer: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. by Edward Wagenknecht (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 271-94.

Initiates the modern recognition of Book of the Duchess as psychological consolation, examining the role of the narrator in the poem, and arguing that his grief is "externalized and projected" in the figure of the Black Knight once the dream begins. The Dreamer leads the Knight through consolation to recognition, and in this way Chaucer praises Blanche, consoles John of Gaunt, and maintains social propriety.

816. BROWN, JAMES NEIL. "Narrative Focus and Function in the Book of the Duchess." Massachusetts Studies in English 2 (1970):71-79.

Describes the narrator of Book of the Duchess as "socially naive," a "would be courtier" who "tries very earnestly to appear courtly and sophisticated." Through the contrast between this persona and the very sophisticated Black Knight, Chaucer produces humor, praises Blanche, and, on an ironic level, censures excessive grief.

817. CHERNISS, MICHAEL D. "The Boethian Dialogue in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 68 (1969):655-65.

Parallels the Book of the Duchess and the first two books of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy to suggest that the consolation of Chaucer's poem is left incomplete. The grief of the Black Knight is therefore unmitigated, so he should not be identified with John of Gaunt.

818. CHERNISS, MICHAEL D. "The Narrator Asleep and Awake in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." Papers in Language and Literature 8 (1972):115-26.

The "unspecified spiritual malady" of the narrator in Book of the Duchess and the poem's significant contrast between natural and unnatural generalize the consolation of the poem beyond the grief of the Black Knight and the misfortune of Alcyone, suggesting that we must all accept misfortune as part of the order of nature.

819. CONDREN, EDWARD I. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A New Hypothesis." Chaucer Review 5 (1971):195-212.

Proposes 1377 as the date of composition for the Book of the Duchess (eight years after Blanche's death), and reads the poem as a plea for patronage, supporting the reading with internal evidence and analysis of traditional assumptions. Interprets the narrator of the poem as contemporary Chaucer, the Black Knight as Chaucer the youthful poet, and Octovyen as John of Gaunt. Challenged by Palmer (entry 831).

820. DELASANTA, RODNEY. "Christian Affirmation in the Book of the Duchess." PMLA 84 (1969):245-51.

Identifies a pattern of Christian allusions to suggest how Book of the Duchess promises resurrection as part of its consolation. The exclusion of Ceys and Alcyone's transformation into birds "initiates a process of spiritual epiphany in the Dreamer," manifested in apocalyptic images of trumpets and a thematic call to resurrection derived from the biblical Song of Songs.

821. FICHTE, JOERG O. "The Book of the Duchess--A Consolation?" Studia Neophilologica 45 (1973):53-67.

Challenges the traditional designation of Book of the Duchess as a consolation by arguing that the Dreamer fails to aid the Black Knight. The poem is an encomnium: Chaucer's concern is literary merit, not Christian consolation.

822. FRIEDMAN, JOHN BLOCK. "The Dreamer, the Whelp, and the Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." Chaucer Review 3 (1969):145-62.

Studies the whelp of Book of the Duchess, surveying past criticism and showing how the animal guides the Dreamer to consolation. As a traditional figure of guiding, healing, and dialectics, the dog appropriately suggests the process of consolation, anticipating the encounter between the Dreamer and the Black Knight.

823. HILL, JOHN M. "The Book of the Duchess, Melancholy, and that Eight-Year Sickness." Chaucer Review 9 (1974): 35-50.

Rejects the traditional notion that the narrator of Book of the Duchess suffers from love-sickness, suggesting instead that his symptoms and the context of their description before the tale of Alcyone indicate that his illness is "head melancholy," a potentially fatal illness that can be cured by no "phisicien but oon"--sleep.

824. JORDAN, ROBERT M. "The Compositional Structure of The Book of the Duchess." Chaucer Review 9 (1974):99-117.

Applies the compositional criteria of Geoffrey of Vinsauf's Poetria Nova to Chaucer's Book of the Duchess, describing the poem's structural "groundplan," noting its inorganic but meaningful digressions, and identifying its array of poetic forms. These techniques evince Chaucer's "emotional range and poetic virtuosity."

825. KELLOGG, ALFRED L. "Amatory Psychology and Amatory Frustration in the Interpretation of the Book of the Duchess." In Chaucer, Langland, Arthur: Essays in Middle English Literature. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1972, pp. 59-107.

Reads Book of the Duchess autobiographically, suggesting an amorous affair between Chaucer's wife, Phillipa, and John of Gaunt, and sketching the development of the medieval pschology of the heart from Plato through the Islamic traditon as background to the poem. The poem's inner structure of consolation accords with medieval psychology while the outer frame records Chaucer's aspirations.

826. KISER, LISA P. "Sleep, Dreams, and Poetry in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." Papers on Language and Literature 19 (1983):3-12.

Equates the narrator's insomnia in Book of the Duchess with Chaucer's concern for poetic inspiration, and discovers in the work "several important statements" about poetry and Chaucer's career: the difficulty of writing a "sincere yet artful lyric," the importance of poetry, and the relative values of the classical and French traditions.

827. KREUZER, JAMES R. "The Dreamer in the Book of the Duchess." PMLA 66 (1951):543-47.

Distinguishes between the narrator and the dreamer of Book of the Duchess, characterizing the first as sad and mature, and the other as sensitive to the Black Knight's grief. Chaucer's separation of the two is an innovation in the use of persona in poetry.

828. LAWLOR, JOHN. "The Pattern of Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." Speculum 31 (1956):626-48. Reprinted in Chaucer Criticism, Volume II: "Troilus and Criseyde" & The Minor Poems (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1961), pp. 232-60.

Analyzes the consolatory value of Chaucer's Book of the Duchess in terms of the place of courtly love in the poem, its pattern of recognition, and the function of its humor. The narrative pose and the humor keep the courtly grief in proportion.

829. LUMIANSKY. R.M. "The Bereaved Narrator in Chaucer's The Book of the Duchess." Tennessee Studies in Literature 9 (1959):5-17.

Argues that the narrator's eight-year sickness in Book of the Duchess is bereavement rather than love-sickness. His grief is evident in the verbal echoes between his situation and that of the Black Knight. The narrator learns the consolation of natural law from the Ceyx/Alcyone section and leads the Knight to similar consolation.

830. MORSE, RUTH. "Understanding the Man in Black." Chaucer Review 15 (1981):204-08.

Argues that much of the supposed stupidity of the Dreamer in Book of the Duchess disappears when we imagine the poem in its original dramatic presentation. The Black Knight's song and his complex chess metaphor reflect his grief. The Dreamer is tactful.

831. PALMER, J.N.N. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A Revision." Chaucer Review 8 (1974):253-61.

Documents the date of Blanche's death as 12 September 1368 (rather than 1369) by reference to historical documents and argues that Chaucer composed Book of the Duchess in 1368-69. Challenges the evidence for 1377 offered by Condren (entry 819). See Condren's response (Chaucer Review 10 [1975]:87-95).

832. PALMER, R. BARTON. "The Book of the Duchess and Fonteinne Amoureuse: Chaucer and Machaut Reconsidered." Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 7 (1980):380-93.

Contrasts aspects of Book of the Duchess and Machaut's Dit de la fonteinne amoureuse, clarifying Chaucer's modifications of his source and demonstrating the discontinuity between the frame and the dream in his poem, a discontinuity which questions the relevance of art to experience and suggests the limits of emotional idealism.

833. PECK, RUSSELL A. "Theme and Number in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." In Silent Poetry: Essays in Numerological Analysis. Edited by Alistair Fowler. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1970, pp. 72- 115.

Studies the numerology that underlies Book of the Duchess, reading the poem as a Boethian recognition of human transience within cosmic permanence. The number three structures the poem, and with one, eight, and twelve, signifies "mind, revelation, harmony, and repose," linking the poem to its "cosmic background."

834. ROBERTSON, D.W., Jr. "The Historical Setting of Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." In Medieval Studies in Honor of Urban Tigner Holmes, Jr. Edited by John Mahoney and John Esten Keller. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966, pp. 169-95. Reprinted in Essays on Medieval Culture (Princeton, N.J.: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), pp. 235-56.

Establishes the historical context of Book of the Duchess as a public "funerary" poem and explores the difference between medieval/moral and modern/psychological notions of grief and consolation. Compares the poem with Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy and reads it as a chivalric lament. The Black Knight is not John of Gaunt.

835. ROWLAND, BERYL. "Chaucer as a Pawn in the Book of the Duchess." American Notes and Queries 6 (1967):3-5

Explores the imagery of chess in Book of the Duchess in light of details of Chaucer's biography, suggesting that the narrator's eight-year sickness in the poem may represent the poet's anticipation of promotion under John of Gaunt's patronage, metaphorically his promotion from pawn to fers.

836. ROWLAND, BERYL. "The Whelp in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 66 (1965):148-60.

Surveys Chaucer's references to dogs and argues that the whelp in Book of the Duchess is best viewed as a modified version of the traditional nightmare hound which lends continuity to the dream and introduces the dreamer's encounter with his alter-ego, the Black Knight.

837. SADLER, LYNN VEACH. "Chaucer's the Book of the Duchess and the 'Law of Kynde'." Annuale Mediaevale 11 (1970):51-64.

Resolves the conflict between authority and experience in Book of the Duchess by considering them in the broader context of the law of nature. The poem leads its audience to accept death as part of this law by showing the Black Knight's recognition of the pitiableness of the human condition and the Dreamer's development.

838. SEVERS, J. BURKE. "Chaucer's Self-Portrait in the Book of the Duchess." Philological Quarterly 43 (1964):27-39.

Challenges the critical tradition that Chaucer's persona in Book of the Duchess suffers his eight-year sickness out of love, pointing out that the poem never presents him as a lover and often suggests that he is uncourtly. The "phisician" of the poem is as likely to be religious as amorous.

839. SHOAF, R.A. "'Mutatio Amoris': 'Penetentia' and the Form of the Book of the Duchess." Genre 14 (1981):163-89.

Assesses the formal aspects of confession, autobiography, and dream vision in Book of the Duchess to show how they are historically related and how they inform the poem. The prologue to the work establishes the "thematics" of autobiography, the dream is autobiographical, and the dialogue within the dream is confessional. The interaction of autobiography, confession of love, and the sacrament of penance has precedent in Augustine's Confessions and Roman de la rose. Elegy is only a secondary concern in Chaucer's poem.

840. SHOAF, R.A.. "Stalking the Sorrowful H(e)art: Penitential Lore and the Hunt Scene in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 78 (1979):313-24.

Reads the Black Knight section of Book of the Duchess as an allegory of penance in which the hunt-as-confession follows the allegory of Le livre de seynt medecines, written by Henry of Gourmant, Blanche's father. The hart suggests both heart and penitential self; the whelp suggests the conscience; and, as in Chaucer's An A.B.C., the white-walled castle is the renewed self.

841. TISDALE, CHARLES P. "Boethian Hert-Huntynge': The Elegaic Pattern of the Book of the Duchess. American Benedictine Review 24 (1973):365-80.

Reads Book of the Duchess as a "psychological" consolation in which the narrator/dreamer, representing the reasonable faculty, aids the Black Knight, representing emotive sorrow, to regain its proper subordinate position, thus effecting psychic balance. The model for this allegory is Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, and the search for consolation is "figuratively portrayed in the hunt of the hart."

842. WIMSATT, JAMES I. "The Apotheosis of Blanche in the Book of the Duchess." JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 66 (1967):26-44

Demonstrates that in the allegorical, Marian overtones of the Black Knight's description of his beloved in Book of the Duchess typological symbols and Scriptural references combine with traditional conventions of French poetry to correlate the Knight's beloved with the Virgin.

843. WIMSATT, JAMES I"The Book of the Duchess: Secular Elegy of Religious Vision?" In Signs and Symbols in Chaucer's Poetry. Edited by John P. Hermann and John J. Burke, Jr. University: University of Alabama Press, 1981, pp. 113-29.

Argues that Chaucer's Book of the Duchess emulates Machaut's dit amoreaux, yet shows unmistakeable similarities to figurative visions like Pearl and Dante's Purgatorio. Chaucer fuses these two traditions in a way that is reminiscent of the "Song of Songs," simultaneously conveying erotic and spiritual meanings.

844. WIMSATT, JAMES I Chaucer and the French Love Poets: The Literary Background of the "Book of the Duchess." University of North Carolina Studies in Comparative Literature, no. 43. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968, 195 pp.

Traces the chronological development of French courtly love poetry (dits amoreux) from Guillaume de Lorris's thirteenth-century portion of the Roman de la Rose to Chaucer's contemporaries, detailing its influence on Chaucer's Book of the Duchess. The Roman pervades Chaucer's poem. Four poems of Guillaume de Machaut are sources or models for portions of the poem, while Jean Froissart's Paradys d'amours "is the main source" of Chaucer's "dream machinery." Such allegories, debates, and poems of complaint and comfort largely shape Chaucer's Duchess and exert influence throughout Chaucer's career.

845. WIMSATT, JAMES I"The Sources of Chaucer's 'Seys and Alcyone'." Medium AEvum 36 (1967):231-41.

Demonstrates the variety of sources from which Chaucer wove his account of Seys and Alcyone in Book of the Duchess: Machaut's Le dit de la fonteinne amoreuse, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Statius's Thebaid, Froissart's Paradys d'Amours, Vergil's Aeneid, the Roman de la Rose, and the Ovide Moralise.

See also entries 7, 47, 133, 154, 157, 233, 237, 806-08, 810. For style: 8, 135, 141; persona: 9, 657, 809, 812; literary relations: 165, 167, 187, 236, 811.

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