Gower Bibliography

Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow

Minnis, A. J. and Morse, Charlotte and Turville-Petre, Thorlac, eds. "Essays on Ricardian Literature in Honour of J.A. Burrow." Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997

Review

Though there is no essay devoted exclusively to Gower, he is named frequently in the pages of this collection, as one might expect from the friends and colleagues of J.A. Burrow, who himself has written so compellingly on our poet. Among the more important references: Ardis Butterfield ("French Culture and the Ricardian Court," pp. 82-120) offers a subtle and well-informed examination of the inter-penetration of French and English literary culture during the Ricardian period, emphasizing the mutuality of cultural influences that was a natural product of the close family ties between royal and aristocratic houses in contrast to a common tendency (among Anglophone writers) to emphasize the distinctness of the English from the French. In a brief consideration of the puy as an example of cultural imitation, Butterfield dismisses the suggestion of Gower's association as far-fetched since there is no evidence of continuity much beyond 1300; and in her discussion of the practice of quoting already existing refrains in new compositions she cites CB 25. In the final part of her essay she gives more direct attention to Gower as one whose works are "supremely poised between linguistic cultures" (p. 107). She compares CB 37 to a ballade of Guillaume Machaut, not to establish borrowing, though an argument for at least indirect influence would not be difficult to make, but to demonstrate how thoroughly at home Gower is in contemporary French poetic idiom, contrary to the judgment of those who have seen either a discontinuity with French courtly writing or a reaction against it in Gower's work. She also gives brief consideration to Traite as a conclusion to CA, which it follows in 8 of the 10 MSS in which it is preserved. There is more than a single paradox to the relation, Butterfield points out, as Gower turns to more love poetry immediately after renouncing any further writing about love, and as he draws upon the authority of French to offer a very un-French defense of married love, creating an instability that is typical of the "endemic restlessness" of Gower's poetic career and his constant habit of setting up "oblique contrasts between different kinds of cultural perspectives" (p. 120). A.G. Rigg ("Anglo-Latin in the Ricardian Age," pp. 121-41) cites Gower at least once on almost every page in his survey of the role and status of Anglo-Latin during the last half of the fourteenth century, focusing on the Ricardian era in particular. "In this period," he writes, "we begin to see clearly the trends that would later lead to both the demise of Latin as a medium for creative writing and its protection as a unique manifestation of classical civilization" (p. 122). His essay is an engaging supplement both to his own History of Anglo-Latin Literature (1066-1422) and to Burrow's Ricardian Poetry, as he describes how Latin writers were like or unlike contemporary writers in English, using the features that Burrow defined as characteristic of the Ricardian age. Along the way, he makes many useful observations about how Gower was like or unlike other contemporary writers in Latin. To use a small example, Gower's use of the enclitic que for et, which stands out so prominently for those more accustomed to classical Latin, is, Riggs asserts, entirely typical of his age (p. 133); and on a larger matter, he notes that the most typical subject matter of late 14th-century Latin poetry is "historical" (as opposed to classical, Biblical, or devotional), the only exceptions being a few of Gower's own short poems. In the last part of his essay, he juxtaposes three different examples of such historical writing, Thomas Barry's "Battle of Otterburn" (a straightforward factual account in verse), Gower's TC (in which the poet "has entirely manipulated history for his poetic and political agenda," p. 138), and the Visio in Book 1 of VC, "the most striking example of the use of contemporary history . . . for literary purposes" (pp. 138-39), presenting a vision that "more than any other dream-vision I know, mirrors the common experience of a bad dream" (p. 139). More briefly, Stephen Medcalf ("The World and Heart of Thomas Usk," pp. 222-253) cites Venus' instruction that Chaucer write his own "testament of love" (CA 8.2955*) as "the only probable evidence of a contemporary's having read" Usk's poem of that name; and Charlotte Morse ("From 'Ricardian Poetry' to Ricardian Studies," pp. 316-44) cites a number of recent studies of Gower (including works by Middleton, Yeager, Scanlon, and Spearing) in her survey of critical work on the Ricardian period that appeared following the publication of Burrow's ground-breaking study in 1971. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 20.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Language and Word Studies
Cinkante Balades
Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz

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