Ensnared by His Words: My Chaucer Obsession

Excerpts from the Foreword, Chapters I, II, and X

 Though late in the sequence, this book is a solid introduction to the messages in the Chaucer trilogy.


Do not go where the path may lead,

go instead where there is no path,
and leave a trail.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

from the Foreword

It is tempting, but unwise, to underestimate the work of Dolores Cullen.  Her direct style, her unaffected enthusiasm for the obscure reaches of Middle English, her openly celebratory approach to Chaucer as the poet who changed her life—this kind of thing is anathema to modern English literature scholars.  As a result, most of them dismiss her startling theory that modern scholarship consistently overlooks something fundamental about the way Chaucer wrote. . . .

Chapter I: Chicago and Points West.

A great many of my most cherished memories come from schooldays in Chicago on the Great South Side. School was my favorite place; teachers my favorite people. And, as long as I can remember, a little voice inside of me that had never heard the name Chaucer, whispered, “Someday you are going to do something special.” . . .

Chapter II: Enter Chaucer.

Now, an odd thing began to happen. Chaucer’s story created pictures in my mind that were double. Reading had never put double images in my mind’s eye before. The phenomenon, I decided, had to come from the way Chaucer uses words. I knew allegories were highly valued in the Middle Ages and wondered if these were mental images of a story told on two levels simultaneously. I was intrigued. . . .

After a week or so of living with the parade of images and the murmuring query, “Why this combination of pilgrims?”—something astonishing happened. Suddenly, I had the answer. I saw why and I saw who. Why did the images appear double? Who are the alternate images? The Pilgrims meshed with signs of the zodiac and the personalities of planets all in the guise of pilgrims. I sat spellbound as each piece fit into place.

Chapter X: What Now—and Why?

It’s gratifying that the extent of my research has been noted. It has also been said that there is no question I’ve made interesting connections. My thoughts are considered “unconventional,” and that’s the way it ought to be. Those marvelous double images in my head are unlike any other portraits of Chaucer’s Pilgrims. The celestial concept has been called fun and a fresh new look—a must read. Could I ask for more? My scholarly work and extensive notes (which you may feel free to skip, if you prefer) are an invitation into a world fashioned six centuries ago, but only opened to the public in the last ten years. My books are the ticket to that world.
        Bon voyage!

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