Gower Bibliography

Estudio sobre Confessio Amantis de John Gower y su versión Castellana, Confisyon del Amante de Juan de Cuenca.

Santano Moreno, Bernardo. "Estudio sobre Confessio Amantis de John Gower y su versión Castellana, Confisyon del Amante de Juan de Cuenca." Cáceres: Universidad de Extremadura, 1990


Santano Moreno's study of the Spanish translation of CA (a revised version of his doctoral thesis of 1989) appeared in the same year as Alvar's edition of the text; the author records the appearance of the edition in a note on page 45, inserted after his book had already gone to press. Manuel Alvar's long introduction to that edition and the present book thus constitute two independent, and in some respects complementary, studies of the same material. Santano Moreno's book is divided into seven chapters. The first treats the dating of the Portuguese and Spanish translations, and presents in greater detail the same evidence that appears in the author's essays (nearly identical, and both in English) in Manuscripta 35 (1991):23-34 (see JGN 10, no. 2) and in Selim 1 (1991):106-22 (see JGN 13, no. 1). His conclusions, that the Portuguese translation was completed between 1433 and 1438, that the Spanish translation was done before 1454, and that the surviving MS must be dated after 1487 and perhaps as late as the early years of the 16th century, are argued persuasively, they constitute a significant revision of previously held views, and they are the final word until some better evidence is found. The remaining six chapters are devoted to the differences between the Spanish and English texts, arranged by type: two chapters on "Omissions that do not substantially modify the meaning," and one each on "Omissions that modify the meaning, and censorship of an ethical and religious nature," "Additions and transformations," "Additions that modify the meaning for ethical or religious reasons," and "Idiomatic and cultural correspondences" between the two texts. The division between changes that affect the sense and those that don't appears somewhat arbitrary: it is a bit surpris¬ing, for instance, to find the omission of the Latin epigrams included in the first chapter, among differences that "do not substantially modify the meaning." (In this section, the author might also have considered the state of the English MS from which the original translator worked, moreover, as Alvar does in his treatment of the epigrams, and as Santano himself does is his discussion of the accidental omission of 4.1813-2233.) The chapter headings are thus somewhat misleading; what we really have here is a catalog of differences between the Spanish and English texts that affect the sense in different ways. As such, Santano Moreno's study provides the complement to Alvar's: where Alvar studies equivalencies, Santano emphasizes differences; where Alvar emphasizes translation, Santano treats the Spanish version as a re-creation of the English text, citing other instances in which medieval authors altered the stories that they found in their "sources." The analogy between Gower's retelling of Ovid, say, and Juan de Cuenca's version of CA is perhaps not exact, but the author finds enough differences to make his comparison interesting. The very act of translating Gower's verse into prose results in many of the omissions that Santano lists, for the Spanish text leaves out most of the expressions we ordinarily dismiss as "fillers" for the sake of meter or rhyme. Another consequence, however, is that the Spanish version is much less colloquial than Gower's; most of the examples that Santano cites in this respect come from the dialogue portions of the poem, and reflect some of the differences from the more formal style of most of the tales. The Spanish version is also less ornamental rhetorically, and here we might consider whether style is a part of meaning: one gets little sense from the Spanish of Gower's more stirring passages of description, or of Amans' more assertive and emotional defenses of his love. The translator was also evidently less interested in the psychology of the lover than in questions of morality. He is rather more modest than Gower in his references to sexual desire, and to complement his many small omissions, he has made a number of additions as well, sometimes only of a single word, but emphasizing such things as God's grace, God's will, God's intervention in human affairs, the sacraments, conversion, the doctrines of the church, the need for penitence, and the destiny that awaits the unrepentant sinner, and generally heightening the praise of virtue and the condemnation of vice. Santano Moreno also notes, as evidence of the translators' own learning, some passages in which they have corrected Gower's citations from the Bible and restored his story to a form more like the source; and in his last chapter, on "idiomatic and cultural correspondences," he treats some of the differences in behavior and imagery that reflect that translators' adaptation for a different nation of readers. His general conclusion, however, is that despite all the differences between the texts, in emphasizing the moral instruction in the poem the translators have remained consistent with Gower's own purposes. Santano Moreno's own characterization of Gower as a sober moralist seems to lie behind some of his judgments of which changes alter the sense and which do not. Some will feel, however, that he has been too conservative, and that in out-Gowering Gower, the translators have removed much of what makes CA more interesting than a mere work of moral instruction could possibly be. Both this book and Alvar's edition will be nearly impossible to obtain in the United States. Readers who wish a copy of Santano Moreno's may write to the Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Extremadura; C/ Pizarro, 8; 10071 Cáceres; Spain. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 14.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis

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