Gower Bibliography

Gower in His Most Learned Role and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381

Galloway, Andrew. "Gower in His Most Learned Role and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381." Mediaevalia 16 (1993), pp. 329-347.


Assesses Vox Clamantis, particularly Gower's depiction of the Peasants' Revolt in the visio of Book 1. The peasants attacked the most learned men in the city and tried to destroy knowledge; they themselves spoke in the voices of beasts; and they overthrew history in their attempt to establish a new social order. The visio which describes them, however, is a most learned poem, written in "ostentatiously bookish" cento, with a strong sense of its own debt to tradition and of the historical antecedents of the events that it describes. These intriguing contrasts in "modes of knowledge" which Galloway sets out become the occasion for him to consider, among other topics, Gower's view of his own role as a man of learning. Gower had every reason to feel personally threatened by the peasants. Unlike some others, however, his professional rank derived not from his position in the church or from his family connections, but simply from his knowledge. In his allegory of the downfall of civic professionals in VC 1.961-70, he defends the professionalization of knowledge in the London of his time. In referring to himself, however, he denies any link to professional or institutional traditions, and he presents the learning that is at the heart of his poetic vocation as conferred upon him, by Sophia or by the "comun vois," even when it is most clearly the product of his own labors with his sources. He also depicts his knowledge as a state of exile, making an unusual if not unique use of imagery drawn from Ovid. The role that he claimed allowed him to address as equals men who were socially far superior to him, such as Archbishop Arundel, to whom he presented a copy of VC. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 13.1]

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Guest issue edited by Robert F Yeager.
Subjects:Vox Clamantis
Biography of Gower

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