Gower Bibliography

Learning to Read in Tongues: Writing Poetry for a Trilingual Culture

Yeager, R.F. "Learning to Read in Tongues: Writing Poetry for a Trilingual Culture." In Chaucer and Gower: Difference, Mutuality, Exchange. Ed. Yeager, R.F. ELS Monograph Series (51). Victoria, B.C.: English Literary Studies, 1991, pp. 115-129.


Reminds us how different the linguistically diverse culture of Gower's and Chaucer's England must have been from the monolingual culture of most modern readers. Where multilingualism was a common experience, English itself was in a state of flux, an evident cause of anxiety for some (see T&C 5.1793-98), but also a unique opportunity for those who would shape or transform the language. Gower allows us to see how English interacted with French and Latin since he wrote so extensively in all three. For one example, Yeager examines Gower's use of the near synonyms "nature" and "kynde" in his English writing. Where Chaucer used the two words with approximately equal frequency, Gower had a marked preference for "kynde," and he seems to have distinguished the words in a way that Chaucer did not. "Nature"——the Latinate, or "higher" form——refers more commonly to "Natura" as God's vicar, and with reference to humans, includes the power of reason and the necessity of moral choice, while "kynde"——from the native or "lower" register——refers to the domain of the instinctual, and thus amoral, "natural law." Gower can thus be seen taking advantage of the "polylinguistic fluidity" of his times. Yeager concludes by examining how Gower maintains his distinction between the two words in his "Tale of Iphis" (CA 4.451 ff.), and how they contribute to the understanding of his tale. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 11.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Language and Word Studies
Confessio Amantis

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