Gower Bibliography

Engendering Authority: Father and Daughter, State and Church in Gower's 'Tale of Constance' and Chaucer's 'Man of Law's Tale'.

Bullón-Fernández, María. "Engendering Authority: Father and Daughter, State and Church in Gower's 'Tale of Constance' and Chaucer's 'Man of Law's Tale'." In Re-visioning Gower. Ed. Yeager, R.F.. Ashville, NC: Pegasus Press, 1998, pp. 129-146.

Review

Bullón-Fernández examines the relation between clerical and lay authority in CA, using as her focus the tale of Constance, which she situates in the context of late medieval power struggles between kings and both popes and parliaments. Gower reduces the role of patriarchal ecclesiastical authorities in the tale, including that of the pope. In their place, he offers Constance. She is not only the daughter of the emperor, but figuratively also his wife (e.g. in providing him with an heir) and his mother (in the lines describing his reaction on being reunited with her, CA 2.1524-27), a "riddle" which recalls Mary's relationship with Christ and the Church's relationship with both God and the Christian community. Gower thus represents the church in a female figure, subordinate to and dependent upon lay masculine power. But he does not do so uncritically. Gower elsewhere uses father-daughter incest to condemn absolutist political power. The incestuous connotations in "Constance" offer a commentary on the pretensions of absolutism and "its fantasy of self-reproducing, in other words, incestuous, royal power" (p. 143). Thus at the same time that the tale supports lay claims to power (with regard to the church), it also suggests the need to delimit them (by implication with regard to parliamentary authority). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 18.1]

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

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