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In my paper, I examine three medieval texts— the Visio Anglia and Confessio Amantis by John Gower, and Pearl by the Gawain Poet. The texts connect through their incorporations of dreams; Pearl and the Visio are “dream visions” narrated by speakers who experience the events of the texts as dreams, while the Confessio features tales of visions. The texts are also structurally similar in striking ways. They feature intricate poetic metrics, double-meanings, and repetitive, cyclical narratives. I argue that the structure and narratives of the texts convey the speakers’ complex experiences with grief, trauma, and fear. The speaker in the Visio witnesses the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 and feels afraid for his personal well-being and Britain’s future. The speaker in the Confessio mourns both the various levels of corruption in his society and his unsatisfying love life, while the speaker in Pearl mourns the loss of his daughter. The cyclical nature of the narratives connects to scholar Cathy Caruth’s argument that traumatic experience is not linear, but rather a repetitive “loop.” I engage with Caruth’s theories to examine how the speakers process their grief and argue that the speakers reconcile their mourning through deepening their understanding of love as social rather than purely personal. In Pearl, the speaker finds healing through joining the Christian spiritual community, while Gower’s narrators begin to heal as they realize that the welfare of their communities is more permanent than their grief.
Geiger, Lauren T., "Dream Visions: Structures of Grief in Medieval Poetry" (2016). English Summer Fellows. 9.
Available to Ursinus community only.
Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.