Megan G. Leitch
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The hermeneutics of sleep in Chaucer's dream poems
in Sleep and its spaces in Middle English literature
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While dream visions are addressed in each of the main chapters of this book, Chapter 4 scrutinises the sleep in Chaucer’s dream visions in light of this study’s broader analysis of sleep. How Chaucer writes about sleep in the Book of the Duchess, the Parliament of Fowls and the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women participates in Middle English literary culture’s pronounced interest in thematising the ethics and affect of sleep’s causation and consequences, and in deploying the connotations of its spaces; rarely, however, has it been observed that Chaucer navigates debts to English literary traditions, alongside French and Italian ones, in his dream visions. Focusing on the Book of the Duchess in particular, Chapter 4 rediscovers Chaucer’s interest in the mind–body connections that sleep foregrounds through sleep’s role in digestion, in the balancing of the humours and passions, and in the generation of dreams in the inward wits. It argues that Chaucer’s dream poetry medicalises sleep in ways that invite analysis in relation to Galenic science, and that in turn illuminate the embodied endeavour of the medieval poet, especially through Chaucer’s consideration of Aristotelian (alongside the more commonly invoked Macrobian) theories of dreams.

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