Gower Bibliography

A History of English Literature: Forms and Kinds from the Middle Ages to the Present.

Fowler, Alastair. "A History of English Literature: Forms and Kinds from the Middle Ages to the Present." Oxford: Blackwell, 1987

Review

Fowler announces that his purpose is to treat the history of literary forms rather than contents; and with regard to specific works, he writes, "I have tried to explain how best to approach each writer: what obstacles to avoid, what allowances to make, what pleasures to expect" (p. vii). His two terse paragraphs on Gower demonstrate the clarity and freshness of observation of the book as a whole, and also some of the limitations of treating so many works in a single short volume: In CA, he writes, "a lover's confession to love's priest Genius, the natural self, constitutes a minutely developed allegorical frame, in which relatively undetailed, beautifully shaped tales are inserted as examples clarifying the deadly sins of love. In effect the tales survey a broad range of human experience in a rational, systematizing way, such that they almost anticipate the method of the Renaissance. Gower was a great intellectual, and his masterpiece communicates an impressive vision. It is a moving, terrible vision, of life as threatened by irresistible and irrational impulses. By the end of his life-long confession Gower's lover has become too old: 'the thing is torned into "was" . . .' (viii.2435). The individual tales, drawn from Ovid or the romances, are triumphs of refacimento, the art of stylish re-presentation. "Gower had the gift of selecting just what formed a spare, classic unity, logical rather than allegorical in coherence. Even his neat tetrameters (four-stressed lines) are balanced, divided into equal halves. . . . Although he wrote with moral fervour, 'moral Gower' was our first major poet of formal elegance in narrative-- superior, in this regard, even to Chaucer." (P. 12.) Review by Martin Dodsworth in TLS, April 8-14 l988, p. 382. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 7.2]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies

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