Gower Bibliography

Middle English Literature.

Bennett, J.A.W. and Gray, Douglas. "Middle English Literature." Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986

Review

Virtually all of Bennett's chapter on Gower (pp. 407-29) is devoted to "Confessio Amantis," and it is for the most part an expanded version of the introduction to his "Selections from John Gower" (1968): one will find very much the same characterizations of Gower's relationship with Chaucer, of his narrative style, of his poetic achievement, of his general themes, and of the roles of the various characters in his poem, fleshed out with considerably more explanation and illustration. Bennett's Gower is a skilled poet and storyteller who is underestimated because of the unobtrusiveness of his art and a man of broad sympathy and insight, characteristics that Bennett illustrates with discussions of "Ceix and Alcione" and "Florent" and with brief quotations from other tales. Gower's most important model and predecessor is Ovid, not only for the tales that he borrowed but also for the topical references and philosophical statements with which his poem begins and ends. His confession frame derives from "Roman de la Rose" and "De Planctu Naturae" but it would also have been seen as a literary adaptation of sacramental penance, and the "therapeutic" function of the sacrament provided the "point of contact" to the treatment of love as a sickness in contemporary love-literature. The general theme of the poem is love: Bennett is not persuaded by attempts to see it as an expression of political or social doctrine, nor is he moved by the efforts to construct a precise moral underpinning for all of the various elements that it contains. Gower's "honeste love" links courtesy, charity, and the practical aims of marriage and the begetting of children. Genius does not represent a single point of view or value but carries out a composite and in some ways ambivalent role. And the unity of the poem is provided loosely by a group of five "distinctly Gowerian" concepts or themes: "Love and Charite as opposed to Lust and Will . . . ; Peace and Rest as opposed to War and Discord; Reason and Wit as against 'unreason'--folly and passion; Nature or Kind, and Mortality; Fortune and Necessity (but with Providence guiding them)" (p. 425). Bennett's view of CA is firmly rooted in a literal reading of Gower's "lessons" but it is also broad and generous and sensitive to the expressive qualities of Gower's verse. Review by A.J. Minnis in TLS, 6 February 1987, p. 140. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 6.1]

Item Type:Book
Additional Information:The volume is "edited and completed" by Douglas Gray.
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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