Gower Bibliography

Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations.

Archibald, Elizabeth. "Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations." Cambridge: Brewer, 1991

Review

Part I of Archibald's book is a study of the sources and circulation of the Latin "Historia Apollonii" and its medieval and Renaissance retellings, including chapters on "Problems in the Plot" and "Genre, Reception and Popularity" in which she offers some comparative comments on the post-classical treatments of the story. Part II presents an edition of version "RA" of the "Historia," with an English translation and a selection of alternative readings from version "RB." There are also two long appendices: the first lists 43 surviving retellings of the Historia, both Latin and vernacular, in chronological order, with a selected bibliography and some comment on each, including, of course, both the Old English version and Gower's, and concluding with Shakespeare's "Pericles." The second presents 37 allusions to the story from other texts from the same period, including Chaucer's reference (probably to Gower's version) in Man of Law's Prologue. Archibald assembles a great deal of material here, and the principal value of her book will be to have gathered together so much in a single place. A large part of her discussion, particularly of the "Historia" itself, is based very heavily on the work of others, and most serious readers will want to depend less on Archibald and more on the earlier scholars whose works she catalogues in her notes. Similarly, the text of the "Historia" that she presents is of little independent value: it is a highly eclectic version, based heavily on the edition of Kortekaas but evidently freely revised, and without any textual notes whatever; there is no indication, moreover, of how the alternative readings from version "RB" were selected, or of how many were left out. Archibald's real interest is not the "Historia" itself but its later influence. She has a great deal to say about recurring themes and motifs, and about the common problems faced by later retellers, for instance the difficulties that medieval writers had in interpreting obsolete customs. There is much that is interesting and informative here. She has less to say, however, about individual retellings, and while she demonstrates the importance of considering each separate text with reference to the tradition from which it draws, she has left a great deal of room for the specialist's study of these later versions. In this regard, her treatment of Gower appears to be typical. While she treats it in contrast to the other surviving versions, she makes no effort to deal with the problem of Gower's exact sources. The "RA" version of the "Historia" that she reprints, first of all, is not the one that Gower used; and the question of which surviving copy of version "RB" is most like the text he did use never comes up. She also has little to say about the relation between the "Historia" and the source that Gower himself cites, in Godfrey of Viterbo's "Pantheon." Nor does she provide a full account of Gower's alterations: her comments on Gower's reshaping of the tale are limited to the areas that she has identified as "Problems in the Plot," and she makes no real attempt to account for Gower's conception of the tale or of the relation between its narrative and its "lesson." All of these questions are raised, of course, by her own discussion. Readers of Gower, especially those unfamiliar with the background of the tale, will find a great deal that is useful in Archibald's book (and they will want to keep the excellent endpiece map of Apollonius' voyages near at hand). But it is still only a starting point for the serious study of the tale, which is the longest and in some ways the most important in Confessio Amantis. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 11.2]

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

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