Gower Bibliography

Story and Wisdom in Chaucer: The Physician's Tale and The Manciple's Tale

Welsh, Andrew. "Story and Wisdom in Chaucer: The Physician's Tale and The Manciple's Tale." In In Manuscript, Narrative, Lexicon: Essays on Literary and Cultural Transmission in Honor of Whitney F. Bolton. Ed. Boenig, Robert and Davis, Kathleen. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2000, pp. 76-95.


Welsh uses PhysT and MancT to illustrate the relation between the often incompatible voices of tale and moralization that he finds characteristic of Chaucer and of medieval literature generally. PhysT, with its avoidance of any moralization of its central incident, Virginius' slaying of his daughter, and its proliferation of moral precepts and advice that do not apply to any of its characters, "seems to be a story in search of a moral," while MancT, with its flood of commonplace wisdom of equally dubious relevance to the story at hand, "seems to be a collection of morals in search of a story (85). The disjunction exemplifies for Welsh "some fundamental differences between narrative and nonnarrative forms that prevent any story, even one as simple as the tale of Virginia or the tale of the crow, from disappearing into sentence, or any sentence into story (88). Chaucer seems to have been uniquely aware of this "mutual resistance of story and sentence" (89), and it is fundamental to his more complex achievements in FkT, NPT, and WBP. As part of his demonstration of the nature of Chaucer's tales, Welsh cites for contrast Gower's tales of Virginia and of Phoebus and the crow, pointing out how in Gower's rather more straightforward handling story and sentence coincide in a clear and unambiguous moral. He doesn't explain why Gower proves to be such an exception to what he posits as a universal rule, nor does he make use of his insight to investigate whether or not there might be other sources of complexity in CA. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 21.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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