Gower Bibliography

Gower and Literary Tradition: Jean de Meun, Ovid, and the 'Confessio Amantis'

Kiefer, Lauren Kathleen. "Gower and Literary Tradition: Jean de Meun, Ovid, and the 'Confessio Amantis'." PhD thesis, Cornell, 1997.

Review

"This project attempts to alert the reader to John Gower's literariness. I argue that in the Confessio Amantis, Gower deliberatedly turns away from the straightforward didacticism of his earlier works and of the Middle English penitential tradition, and adopts instead the narrative strategies of poets such as Jean de Meun and Ovid. I also link Gower's literary complexity in the Confessio with the work's secular concerns, arguing that Gower's growing awareness of the complex social problems surrounding him led him to abandon the didactic stance of his early works. "Chapter One outlines Gower's progression from the rigid structures and spiritual emphasis of his earlier major works to the complexity and secular emphasis of the Confessio Amantis. In particular, I examine Gower's revisions in the Vox Clamantis as evidence of his growing social and political concerns, and show how the first chapter of the Confessio deliberately rejects the medieval penitential manual's paradign of divine justice, prefer¬ring instead a paradigm of personal responsibility. "Chapter Two outlines the poetic strategies which Gower borrows from Jean de Meun. In particular, this chapter explores the way Jean and Gower turn the traditional function of the exemplum on its head, by using the form to impugn the credibility of the narrator. While traditional exemplum narrators choose and revise stories for clarity and appropriateness, Jean's and Gower's narrators make choices and revisions which merely reflect their own limitations. "While Chapters One and Two examine isolated tales within the Confessio, Chapter Three discusses the way several tales interact with each other. Gower's Ulysses tales — "Ulysses and the Sirens," "Ulysses and Penelope," "Nauplus and Ulysses," "Achilles and Deidamia," and "Ulysses and Telegonus" — place him in dialogue with both Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Trojan historiographical tradition. I show how Gower deliberately rejects the didactic tendency of medieval historiography in favor of the more elusive poetic strategies of the epic and romance traditions, just as he rejected the didacticism of the penitential and exemplum traditions in favor of Jean's elusive structures." [JGN 14.2]

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International 55 (1995): 1946A.
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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