Representing Gothic: A Description of a Gothic Edifice in Geoffrey Chaucer's "House of Fame"

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Columbia University

This paper proposes to approach the representation of the House of Fame with a close re-reading and a synthesis of previous historiography and literary theory in an attempt to address the problem of representation and ‘story-telling’ within the description of the Gothic edifice. How does Chaucer tell the story of “Gothic,” how does he represent a Gothic image? Regardless of the precedent and source for Chaucer’s description of the House of Fame, the important feature of the image is the representation of the Gothic edifice in words, which requires elaborate metaphors and capturing the Gothic structure as a mnemonic image. I would like to specifically engage how Chaucer works to describe and represent Gothic architecture in words. I will argue that the failure of language and a common literary trope known as the ‘inexpressibility topos’ figure prominently in Chaucer’s description; that Chaucer posits himself into the ‘role of the interlocutor’ to give the architectural edifice meaning and ultimately presents an invitation for interpretation.