The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Aers, David. "The Parliament of Fowls: Authority, the Knower and the Known." 16 (1981): 1-17.
Chaucer's poetic construction forces his readers to overlook problems inherent in the idea of "commune profyt." By choosing explicitly pagan material in considering questions posed by Augustine in the De civitate dei, Chaucer undermines the pagan text. By noticing the juxtaposition of the two texts, readers recognize the "human mediations involved in all human knowledge" (9). The conflict between the lower classes of birds and the eagles in the Parliament of Fowls indicates a social conflict. Ultimately, Chaucer subverts all dogmas and all attempts to replace personal knowing with authoritative interpretation.
Anderson, J. J. "The Narrators in the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls." 26 (1992): 219-35.
Though the narrators of Chaucer's dream visions seem to share the same naiveté, they are all variations upon the narrators of the French dream visions, and this fact suggests that Chaucer was experimenting with different narrative personas. Comparing the personas in Book of the Duchess and Parliament of Fowls makes this conclusion particularly clear. The two speakers open their poems differently, expressing different views of love, reading, and writing. Their experiences of the dream world are similar in that the dream world provides a welcome respite from the waking world, but in the end, neither narrator seems to profit much from the dream, though their responses to their dreams are quite different.
Campbell, Thomas P. "Machaut and Chaucer: Ars Nova and the Art of Narrative." 24 (1990): 275-89.
Chaucer's narratives borrow both from Machaut's poetry and his music. The dissonance of conflicting solutions to an enigma, the simultaneity of events, and the nested perspectives found in poems like the Parliament of Fowls and the Knight's, Nun's Priest's, Merchant's, and Reeve's Tales can all be traced to medieval music. Examination of Machaut's ballad "Je Puis Trop Bien" demonstrates corresponding qualities of medieval music, especially the ballad form. Cursory examination of this ballad shows that contrast between music and the poetry joined to it was the mode. Scrutiny of the Miller's Tale shows that it uses all the musical techniques found in Machaut's ballad to maintain its unity.
Chamberlain, David S. "The Music of the Spheres and the Parlement of Foules." 5 (1970): 32-56.
In the Parliament of Fowls, Chaucer uses the four species of medieval music to draw attention to the eagles and suggests that the spheres create most of the music, including the "form . . . meter, stanza, and length," of the poem (33). The discussion of the spheres and Nature's way of joining disparate elements suggests musica mundana. Musica humana is less noticeable because Chaucer did not believe in open display. In discussing human music, Chaucer changes his source to emphasize that harmony in world music results from love. He also discusses the three aspects of human music though in different terms from Boethius. Chaucer also uses the three kinds of instrumental music in the roundel which the birds sing, the women's dancing in Venus's temple, and his poetry itself. Chaucer then refers to divina musica in his image of the wood. The spheres are the cause of both "sonorous" and "non-sonorous" music. In the poem, the form and rhyme of the stanzas, which reproduce the sonorous music of the spheres, suggest that the poem is missing a final line that would complete the complex stanzaic form and rhyme scheme. The wind in the wood demonstrates the sonorous music of the spheres as the seasons show non-sonorous music. Finally, readers can explicate the poem in terms of a pattern of three and seven which reinforces the musical patterning of the Parliament of Fowls.
Dean, James. "Artistic Conclusiveness in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls." 21 (1986): 16-25.
The uncertainty that frustrates Chaucer scholars in the Parliament of Fowls is a deliberate attempt to show that art has the capacity "to force a conclusion where there can be no true closure" (16). The narrator's confusion and wavering, the pun on "parlement," the incongruity of human-like birds, and the structure of the poem itself create the sense of inconclusion. The roundel at the end does not necessarily follow the "conclusion" of the parliament. The lyric does, however, demonstrate certainty in both content and form, and it evokes a sense of harmony. The dreamer's awakening, however, undercuts the sense of conclusion that the roundel provided and hints that such questions might not be resolved.
Donaldson, E. Talbot. "Venus and the Mother of Romulus: The Parliament of Fowls and the Pervigilium Veneris." 14 (1980): 313-18.
Chaucer took the reference to Rhea Silvia in the Parliament of Fowls from Pervigilium, not from Ovid, as has been previously suggested.
Dubs, Kathleen E., and Stoddard Malarkey. "The Frame of Chaucer's Parlement." 13 (1978): 16-24.
The opening stanza of the Parliament of Fowls expresses a poet's concern with shaping his raw materials into poetry. The writer-narrator of the Parliament is more detached than the narrator of the Book of the Duchess; the narrator of the Parliament achieves detachment through the frame of book, then dream. The dismissal of Somnium Scipionis in the opening stanzas of the Parliament can be read as part of Chaucer's concern with writing, and understanding the Parliament as a poem about writing illuminates the poem's circular structure.
Finlayson, John. "The Roman de la Rose and Chaucer's Narrators." 24 (1990): 187-210.
Comparing Chaucer's dream vision narrators to the narrator in the Roman de la Rose illuminates the functions of Chaucer's narrators. In the Roman de la Rose the narrator has a number of different stances highlighting a variety of personality traits. Guillaume de Lorris's narrator psychologically coresponds to the author. In the Book of the Duchess, however, the narrator is not established with a particular autobiographical connection to the author. The places in which the narrator becomes autobiographical are merely narrative devices because texts like the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls do not present a "consistent, 'comic persona'" (200). The narrator in House of Fame is not consistently the same, but he is constantly in attendance as the unifying device for the poem. In the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls the narrator is not often present, nor is he consistent, and his statements show greater neutrality than previous scholars have thought.
Frank, Robert W., Jr. "The Legend of The Legend of Good Women." 1 (1966): 110-33.
The idea that the good women bored Chaucer has halted criticism of the Legend, though writers immediately following Chaucer's death seemed unaware that Chaucer thought the project unpleasant, and the Legend of Good Women remained a part of literary fare into the fifteenth century. Nineteenth-century critics derived the idea that the Legend bored Chaucer from the project's unfinished state and other assumptions about Chaucer's literary development not drawn from the work itself. Others point to passages of "mocking, humorous tone" (116). References to various women in the Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls, however, suggest that the material for the Legend had interested Chaucer for some time. He also rewrote the Prologue and mentioned the Legend in the Man of Law's Tale, surely not acts of boredom. Other passages which have been used to demonstrate Chaucer's boredom with his subject are in fact occupatio. The humorous tone does not present a problem because Chaucer characteristically lightens serious moments and because the topic itself (good women) evokes satire.
Fyler, John M. "Love and Degree in the Franklin's Tale." 21 (1987): 321-37.
When the Franklin describes Arveragus and Dorigen's marriage, he says, "the name of soveraynetee,/ That wolde he [Arveragus] have for shame of his degree" (751-52). Properly understood, this statement suggests that Arveragus wants the "name" of sovereignty in order to offset his low social position. The name of sovereignty is a common romance motif in which the knight unknown can barely present his suit because of the difference in social station between himself and his lady. Paradoxically, once the lovers are married the male gains sovereignty. Chaucer treats the paradox of courtly love in other works including Troilus and Criseyde, the Parliament of Fowls, the Legend of Ariadne from the Legend of Good Women, and the Knight's Tale. Though the Franklin would like to believe that members of all classes can attain gentillesse, his tale suggests that ultimately gentillesse is the province of the upper classes. For its focus on these issues, the Franklin's Tale seems to respond to the Clerk's Tale most immediately.
Hewitt, Kathleen. "'Ther it was first': Dream Poetics in the Parliament of Fowls." 24 (1989): 20-28.
The Parliament of Fowls rearranges the material of Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, but still follows the pattern of descent from unity to disunity also found in the Somnium. In the process of presenting the dream, Chaucer borrows from Dante and from Boccaccio's Teseida. The parliament itself derives from Alanus de Insulis's De planctu naturae. In it, the rip in Nature's gown signifies humankind's separation from Nature. The labor of the birds that Chaucer highlights, however, suggests a movement towards redemption.
Hieatt, Constance B. "Un Autre Fourme: Guillaume de Machaut and the Dream Vision Form." 14 (1979): 97-115.
Machaut never wrote a dream vision in the sense that the frame occurs while the protagonist is awake but the primary action takes place during sleep. He did, however, write works clearly related to the dream vision tradition. Dream visions are characterized by a frame that points out details important to interpretation, a dreamer who observes but does not participate in the action, scenes that grow out of each other, and personified characters who participate in the action. In a dream vision, the protagonist must withdraw from society and encounter an instructor who will help the dreamer. The epilogue to the dream vision states the dreamer's new-found knowledge or lack of it. The Roman de la Rose is both a dream vision and a romance, so it cannot be used as a standard by which to determine the characterstics of dream vision. Though some of Machaut's works do not employ a dream, they read like dream visions because they follow the basic structure of dream visions as discussed above, for example Dit dou Vergier, Dit de la Fonteinne Amoureuse, Dit dou Lyon, Jugement de Roy dou Behaingne, Jugement de Roy dou Navarre, Remede de Fortune, and Dit de l'Alerion. Many scholars consider the Dit de l'Alerion Machaut's least successful work, but careful examination reveals that Chaucer borrowed from it for the Parliament of Fowls.
Kelley, Michael R. "Antithesis as the Principle of Design in the Parliament of Fowls." 14 (1979): 61-73.
The contrasts which seem to undermine the Parliament of Fowls unify the work in a series of formal oppositions. Chaucer employs antithetical pairs of works throughout Parliament as part of a structural design. The bird groups form another contrasting pair: the higher, more courtly birds contrast with the lower, more bourgeois birds. Chaucer also presents description and characterization in opposing pairs. The last section of the poem directly contrasts dream vision with beast fable. In the course of the poem, the narrator's tone shifts from the extreme of love poet to poet of "hevynesse" (89). The Parliament, then, can be analyzed as a work based on design faithfully applied to all its elements. It is one of many medieval works that employ design to unite disparate elements.
Leicester, H. Marshall, Jr. "The Harmony of Chaucer's Parlement: A Dissonant Voice." 9 (1974): 15-34.
The richness of tradition and the depth of Chaucer's own perceptions prevents the unification of the Parliament of Fowls. Chaucer treats his dream as a series of voices, not of places, and disjoins the voices from each other though they are associated with traditional topoi. The material, however, is too abstract to remain so separated from ordinary experience. Chaucer uses his material to display learning for learning's sake, but this choice separates the erudite material from the more narrative material. The contest between radical ordering and subjective use of traditional material prevents the poem from being unified until the end of Part I. Ultimately, Chaucer cannot separate his material from himself. The final section of the poem is more unified in part because the poet relinquishes his attempt to deal with big questions about love. This progression as well as the action in the last section of the poem itself point to Chaucer's focus on individuals as disruptive forces. Chaucer also examines how types and styles can or cannot communicate; as he represents it, attempting to remain fixed in a type or style will only result in social collapse. Nature seems to be the force channeling individuals into socially accepted behaviors, but there is an underlying suggestion that Nature is chaotic. The final roundel reestablishes natural order and absorbs the individual problems. Finally, the "solution" suggests that society and culture are maintained at the expense of individuals (32).
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part I)." 25 (1990): 1-16.
The Parliament of Fowls distinctly deals with love and courtship. The poem is a dream vision, closely associated with the debate or demande d'amour. Chaucer alters the debate so that the choice is between different degrees, not kinds, thereby problematizing the activity of choosing by feeling and will, not by reason. Chaucer draws attention to the conflict between Nature's power and the will of creatures, showing that individuals do not always guide their behavior by reason. The debate between free will and determinism is the crux of the poem. Such examination reveals Chaucer's consideration of the classical and medieval philsopical discussions of choice and will. The use of Cicero signals to the reader that Chaucer is attempting to deal with love at a more elevated level. Medieval philsophy moved more to voluntarism, giving the will greater freedom. Chaucer also presents intellectualism as "a form of determinism" (9). In this description of determinism, Chaucer also engages Dante, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Buridan.
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part II)." 25 (1990): 85-95.
Chaucer examines free will from three different angles in the Parliament of Fowls. The emphasis of the traditional demande d'amour is not the choice of the formel, but who she chooses. By showing a narrator who hesitates before the gates of love, Chaucer personifies the debate between free will and determinism. Chaucer also refers to Cicero, a philosopher interested in comprehending the relationship between free will and divine foreknowledge. In the fourteenth century the proponents of voluntarism were Duns Scotus and Ockham. Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine opposed them by diminishing man's free will in order to emphasize God's power and knowledge. Duns Scotus separates the intellect and the will since the intellect focuses on an object that determines its own motion. The will is, however, free to determine itself. In the garden of the Parliament of Fowls, readers see the failure of will. The parliament shows, in contrast, the activity of the will. Chaucer also presents the weakness of Nature and Reason in that both are without will. Ultimately, the formel eagle shows how self-motivated beings behave.
McCall, John P. "The Harmony of Chaucer's Parliament." 5 (1970): 22-31.
To best understand the Parliament of Fowls, readers must resist reducing it to a monophonic work and see in it the harmony of many different voices. Nature's final decision with regard to the marital state of the formel eagle takes the best of the opinions of the different bird groups and maintains a perfect balance between Nature and Reason. Chaucer presents readers with a harmonious picture of the garden though the trees each have different, and sometimes contradictory, purposes. Both the garden and the parliament tell readers about the "duality of life and . . . all earthly creation" (27).
Miller, Jacqueline T. "The Writing on the Wall: Authority and Authorship in Chaucer's House of Fame." 17 (1982): 95-115.
Inherent in the genre of dream vision is the problem of authority: there is no one who can corroborate the narrator's dream. The narrator of the House of Fame carefully establishes his separation from the dream vision tradition by placing the dream in December and appealing to himself as an authority figure. When telling the story of Dido and Aneas off the walls of the Temple of Venus, the narrator refers to himself as a kind of author, determining the parts of the story he will include based on his purpose. When he leaves the temple, however, the world outside is too much for his voice, and the voice is silenced. Silence gives authority to the true creator.
Oruch, Jack B. "Nature's Limitations and the Demande d'Amour of Chaucer's Parlement." 18 (1983): 23-37.
The Parliament of Fowls is an innovative treatment of the demande d'amour as shown by comparison with traditional elements of that genre. The choice presented to the formel eagle, the position of the judge and the birds who argue for each eagle, and the inconclusive end to which Nature assents all differ substantially from the traditional form. The role of Nature in Parliament of Fowls can be profitably compared to more traditional treatments in Alanus de Insulis's Anticlaudianus, Dante's Tesoretto, Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose, and Guillaume de Deguilleville's Pèlerinage de la Vie Humaine. Chaucer designed Parliament of Fowls to cause the reader to examine larger questions, for example the narrator's interpretation of Somnium Scipionis.
Payne, Robert O. "Making His Own Myth: The Prologue to Chaucer's Legend of Good Women." 9 (1975): 197-211.
The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women shows a standard Chaucerian narrator, an academic who relates his dream. Like the Book of the Duchess, the Parliament of Fowls, and House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women chronicles the development of a love poet. The narrator becomes progressively more integral to the prologues of these poems, gaining an identity and participating in the activity of the dream garden. In the Legend of Good Women, the narrator becomes a representative of Chaucer; as the narrator, Chaucer refers to his earlier work. Finally, the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women portrays the quest for an ars poetica.
Peck, Russell A. "Love, Politics, and Plot in the Parlement of Foules." 24 (1990): 290-305.
The Parliament of Fowls can be interpreted three different ways in light of political situations during Chaucer's lifetime. Identifying specific people with specific characters in the poem is the least fruitful method of approaching the poem. Readers may also interpret the poem In light of political philosophy, connecting the dream-vision material to neo-Aristotelian and Ciceronian materials on the ideal political body. Scrutiny of Chaucer's source, the Roman de la Rose, reveals another possible way to read the Parliament of Fowls . The kind of love presented in the Roman de la Rose is political in that it creates change, but is also changed itself. Chaucer maintains this kind of love in the Parliament of Fowls, and the conflict between love and politics drives the plot. The Parliament of Fowls is also about knowledge, reading, and movement from "narcissism to politics" (298). In the desire for enclosure and in the parliament itself, readers recognize the assertion of willful desire and see how desire can become political catastrophe.
Polzella, Marion L. "'The craft so long to lerne': Poet and Lover in Chaucer's 'Envoy to Scogan' and Parliament of Fowls." 10 (1976): 279-86.
Chaucer carefully constructs an analogy between poet and lover. When the poet calls on Venus, he needs aid to write, not to love. The narrator's inexperience in love makes the parallels between love and poetry stronger, particularly in the Parliament of Fowls. Finally, the poet rejects neither love nor poetry, though he does express doubts regarding their longevity.
Sklute, Larry M. "The Inconclusive Form of the Parliament of Fowls." 16 (1981): 119-28.
Though well-organized, the Parliament of Fowls leaves readers with a sense of inconclusiveness. Chaucer creates the readers' sense of confusion by giving us a bewildered narrator who uses a broad definition of love but seeks an extremely specific solution. The other elements in the poem, such as, the non-choice of the formel eagle at the end of the parliament, work together to make the reader recognize that a lack of finality supports the poem. In contrasting the two dreams, Chaucer does more than subvert authority: he suggests that reality is pluralistic and supports his assertion with inconclusion.
von Kreisler, Nicolai Alexander. "Bird Lore and the Valentine's Day Tradition in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules." 3 (1968): 60-64.
The assembly of birds in the Parliament demonstrates Chaucer's knowledge of the actual mating habits of birds. Even the instance in which three male falcons offer to fight over one formel mirrors naturally occurring behavior, though Chaucer made some modifications to clarify his point.
Whitman, F. H. "Exegesis and Chaucer's Dream Visions." 3 (1969): 229-38.
The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls have structural similarities which imitate French love poetry. Each poem has a moral, though each includes substantial sections from classical works. The works of Ovid, Macrobius (on Scipio), and Virgil generate the themes of which the dream visions are contemplations. All three poems examine love as it relates to real and unreal happiness. The dream vision is the best way to examine and apply moral principles of love.
Wilhelm, James J. "The Narrator and His Narrative in Chaucer's Parlement." 1 (1967): 201-06.
In the Parliament of Fowls, Chaucer creates a narrator who ends up as a lonely scribe with only his books for company. The result is an enigmatic poem which gives us a panoramic view of love.