Gower Bibliography

Frame is the Thing: Gower and Chaucer and Narrative Entente

Bowers, Robert. "Frame is the Thing: Gower and Chaucer and Narrative Entente." In Geardagum 19 (1998), pp. 31-39. ISSN 1933-8724


Bowers uses entente and the distinction that Chaucer and Gower create among different "narratological levels" as a way of exploring some key differences between Confessio Amantis and The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer never introduces himself except as a companion on the pilgrimage, though a more distinctively authorial voice does emerge in the Retraction, and we are constantly aware of the possibility that "Chaucer the poet" and "Chaucer the character" are not the same. The lack of any explicit statement, together with the fact that the poem remains unfinished, leaves the author's precise entente unclear, presumably deliberately. Gower introduces himself as poet in the Prologue, composing CA at Richard's behest, and introduces his character as lover only in Book 1. The explicit addition of another "level" "actually simplifies, rather than complicates, the project" (32), since it makes authorial entente clear. In WBPT, Chaucer introduces a third voice whose motives are different from those of both the poet and "Chaucer the character," and it is from such disjunctions that irony results. There is no such distinction, however, between Genius and the Gower of the Prologue, both of whom advocate reason for the purpose of restoring harmony to the world. WB's rejection of reason is analogous to the breakdown of order that occurs in the first fragment of CT, and therein lies the largest difference that Brower finds between the Gower's and Chaucer's poems. The two authors take "opposite views of remembrance" (36). Gower seeks to reform the present with lessons from the past: he moves from disorder to order by way of moderation and reason, and ends with certainty and optimism in his poem's epilogue. Chaucer moves from order to disorder by way of Pride (the storytelling contest) and division. There is no closure but only a retraction in which Chaucer finally turns his attention to the salvation of his soul. "He is just beginning what Gower has just ended. And this retraction is part of the reason why Chaucer's work is canonical and Gower's is not" (38). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 22.2]

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

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