Gower Bibliography

John Gower's Confessio Amantis, Ideology, and the 'Labor' of 'Love's Labor'.

Sadlek, Gregory M. "John Gower's Confessio Amantis, Ideology, and the 'Labor' of 'Love's Labor'." In Re-visioning Gower. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Charlotte, NC: Pegasus Press, 1998, pp. 147-58.


In a brief but suggestive essay, Sadlek examines Gower's allusions to the "labor of love" within the framework of contemporary ideologies of labor. The fourteenth century was a time of intense interest in work issues and in the nature of labor, which is reflected in an expansion of the lexicon and in the use of terms such as "besinesse" and "occupacion" with a new, largely positive connotation. Gower's poem, Sadlek argues, represents a "site of action" in which conflicting contemporary ideologies are simultaneously present. He identifies a "traditional medieval ideology of work" in the frame of the Seven Deadly Sins and its numerous branches. In Book 4, "aristocratic voices" defend idleness as a form of labor in the case of love, and knighthood as a more appropriate form of labor for worthy men. There is also the "voice of a new work ethic, which insists that legitimate work much also produce concrete results" (p. 157). None of these can be identified exclusively with either Genius or Amans. A different set of issues emerges in the poem's conclusion, in which both Amans and Venus revert to a definition of "love's labor" as successful procreation, a notion rooted in RR but also consistent with a "production oriented" work ideology. Gower criticizes wasteful idleness in love, Sadlek concludes, but he does so from a complex position than represents the changing labor ideologies of his time. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 18.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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