Gower Bibliography

Gower, Chaucer, and French Prose Arthurian Romance

Kennedy, Edward Donald. "Gower, Chaucer, and French Prose Arthurian Romance." Mediaevalia 16 (1993), pp. 55-90.

Review

A detailed examination of both Chaucer's and Gower's allusions to stories of King Arthur in an attempt to discover which texts they had read and to define their attitude toward Arthurian romance. Neither poet gives much more than brief allusion to Arthurian figures, and their references seem often to be based on no more than general knowledge of Arthurian tales. Gower, moreover, if he drew his tale of Florent from an Arthurian source, removed all reference to Arthur in his retelling. Kennedy's work of detection is thus all the more impressive. Chaucer was less interested in Arthurian literature than Gower, Kennedy concludes, though he knew Geoffrey of Monmouth, some version of the Tristan story, and either the cyclic or non-cyclic Lancelot en prose. Gower's taste was somewhat more old-fashioned: he knew more about Gawain than Chaucer evidently did; he knew more about Tristan, though it is still not possible to establish which work he drew upon; and in addition to the Lancelot en prose, he seems to have known more of the Vulgate Cycle, including at very least La Mort Le Roi Artu. He also seems to have taken these stories more seriously than Chaucer did. In using them as sources of moral lessons, his attitude toward the characters he mentions is usually disapproving, but he includes Arthur himself among the Nine Worthies, and his preference for a heroic conception of the king, Kennedy suggests, may explain his excision of Arthur from the tale of Florent, in all analogues of which Arthur plays a less than heroic role. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 13.1]

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Guest issue edited by Robert F. Yeager.
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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