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female narration, Middle English dream vision, fictional persona, gender


Two poems, The Assembly of Ladies and The Floure and the Leafe, are unique among Middle English dream visions due to the gender of their narrators; both are narrated by women. In his edition of these two poems, Derek Pearsall argues that whether they were told by women or not is really of little importance. There are many examples of men, such as Lydgate and Deschamps, writing as women. However, while men may speak for women in other types of poems, a woman narrator of Middle English dream vision survives only in these two poems. Moreover, as Alexandra Barratt maintains, the totally fictional first person persona did not exist at this time. Though Chaucer, Dante, and others created personae for their poems, these fictional creations generally shared many personality traits with their creators, such as profession and most of their physical attributes, including gender. The fictional persona was generally a naive counterpart of the author, inexperienced in love or of wavering spiritually.