Gower Bibliography

The Phenomenology of Make Believe in Gower's Confessio Amantis

Peck, Russell A.. "The Phenomenology of Make Believe in Gower's Confessio Amantis." Studies in Philology 91 (1994), pp. 250-69.


Peck examines the dialogue between Genius and Amans in terms of medieval phenomenology — most generally, the speculation about the relation between the outer world and the images formed thereof in the mind, and about the ways in which the mind understands what it does not see — as reflected in such authors as Chaucer and Langland as well as Boethius, Hugh of St. Victor, and late medieval English mystics. By this analysis, Genius' tales are images presented for Amans' contemplation, fictions designed to provide access to the truth, while Amans' perceptions and interpretations are shaped by his pre-existing fantasy, another sort of fiction that interferes with the search for truth. At issue also are different kinds of love: for the English mystics, love provided the only means to move beyond phenomena directly to their source, but Amans' naturatus amor merely creates desires that distort all his perceptions. Peck examines the "eyes and ears" passage in Book 1, the discussion of Falssemblant and Supplantation near the end of Book 2, and the discussion of Sorcery in Book 6 in order to show how perception and misperception — expecially that governed by desire — and the relation between exterior and interior phenomena are treated as moral issues in Genius' lessons, and how Genius attempts to reorder Amans by providing him with new images, the proper significance of which Amans stubbornly resists. Like the victims of Nectanabus' sorcery, Amans is not the victim of deceit exempt by his own choice. At the end of the poem, the poet sets aside his own Nectanabus-like role — as creator of images— at the same time that Amans becomes the supplicant for the welfare of England: "Knowing that he cannot effect change in his audience (only they can do that), he dramatizes instead a change from naturatus amor to caritas within himself, and takes another name — John Gower" (p. 267). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 14.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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