Gower Bibliography

Exemplum and Tale in John Gower's 'Confessio Amantis'

Bunt, G. H. V.. "Exemplum and Tale in John Gower's 'Confessio Amantis'." In Exemplum et Similitudo: Alexander the Great and Other Heroes as Points of Reference in Medieval l]Literature. Ed. Aerts, W. J. and Gosman, M.. Mediaevalia Groningana (8). Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 1988, pp. 145-155.


Bunt begins with a general overview of the frame story, the structure, and the sources of CA as a prelude to his discussion of Gower's use of exempla. Using some of the most familiar tales from the poem, he points to the problems created by Genius' uncertain moral authority, especially in tales concerned with love (e.g. "Dido and Aeneas" and "Ulysses and Penelope"), and by the frequent conflict between the moral lesson and the particulars of the narrative in the longer and better developed tales (e.g. "Ceix and Alcyone," "Apollonius of Tyre," and "Canace and Machaire"). These discrepancies, he concludes, "seem to be inherent in [Gower's] method of exemplification," by which the poet concentrates upon a single lesson for each tale, even when this is not necessarily its dominant theme. A different sort of discrepancy arises in the many tales concerned with Alexander, who is referred to more often than any other hero in CA, and who provides the pretext for the long excursus in Book 7. One finds the same habit of concentrating upon a single lesson at the expense of the other moral issues each story might raise. In this case, moreover, Gower makes no effort to provide a consistent view of Alexander's character, and was clearly less interested in Alexander as a historical figure than as a source of a large number of well known, though sometimes conflicting, exemplary tales. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 12.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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