Gower Bibliography

The Septvauns Affair, Purchase and Parliament in John Gower's Mirour de l'Omme

Giancarlo, Matthew. "The Septvauns Affair, Purchase and Parliament in John Gower's Mirour de l'Omme." Viator 36 (2005), pp. 435-464. ISSN 0083-5897


Giancarlo summarizes his article thus: "The analysis focuses on three points: 1) the poet's involvement in a parliamentary law dispute about land purchasing in 1365-66; 2) the parliamentary allegory (the 'parliament of the devils' in Part I), extensive legal diction, and the condemnation of 'purchasing' in the poem; 3) the significance these elements have for understanding the Mirour as a complex social allegory. This article argues that Gower's poetical ambivalence about 'the common voice' is reflected in the work's parliamentary form, its powerful but also subtly defensive condemnation of legal manipulation, and in the problems of representation—both political and artistic—that these elements raise. This analysis thus reevaluates the Mirour as an important early work in Gower's oeuvre demonstrating engagement with many of the same issues arising in his later verse." Even were it a lesser project, Giancarlo's study would be notable, examinations of the Mirour on any subject whatever being so rare on the ground. As it is, he makes a convincing claim for Gower's purposeful application of contemporary parliamentary practices to the Mirour, in the description of the "devil's parliament" in Part I. Particularly intriguing is the reminder thus indirectly raised that, as early as 1365, Gower was a close observer of parliamentary action, so evident from his negotiation of the land transaction involving the Septvauns heir—-a transaction in which Gower alone of those involved seems to have emerged with his purchase (and probably his reputation, Macaulay's grumbling notwithstanding) intact. Giancarlo's focus on legal language laced into the sections of the poem he studies is very helpful, too. He teases out words otherwise overlooked as specialized vocabulary of the trade, thereby restoring a sense of how such passages would have been received by Gower's fourteenth-century readership. His sense of Gower's "poetical ambivalence about the 'common voice'" is a little less convincing, if only because, his basis for argument being relatively narrow slices of so vast a poem, it can seem less readily descriptive of the work entire. Too, Giancarlo (reasonably enough) assumes a straightforward, beginning-to-completion program for the writing of the Mirour, when indeed there may have been a lengthy hiatus between the earlier and final sections.] [RFY. Copyright The John Gower Newsletter. JGN 25.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Biography of Gower
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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