Gower Bibliography

The Representation of Women in John Gower's Confessio Amantis.

Mast, Isabelle. "The Representation of Women in John Gower's Confessio Amantis." PhD thesis, Oxford University, 1997.

Review

"The aim of this thesis is to offer a reading of the position of women in the tales of the Confessio Amantis and also to contextualise John Gower's portrayal, particularly with reference to his sources and some contemporary analogues. The Introduction undertakes a consideration of theoretical problems, placing particular emphasis on the problematics of the female voice within a male poet's work, the pagan nature of Gower's material, and the exemplum genre. Chapter 1 analyses Gower's presentation of women's speech and places it in the context of medieval social norms and guides to conduct. This is followed by a statistical study of speech in the Confessio and some analogues. The results are examined in the context of the stereotype of the garrulous woman, to question whether Gower evaluated women's speech as negative and to conclude whether their use of words compensates for their restricted access to the world of deeds. Chapter 2 considers the position of women in the family. It is mostly concerned with women as wives since the topic of marriage is particularly important in the Confessio, but the position of mothers and daughters within the power structures of the family is also examined. Chapter 3 begins by discussing Gower's position in the medieval discourse on virginity and goes on to argue that his views on sexuality are part of his more general ideas on Nature. In his poem female desire is not stereotyped and finds many ways of expressing itself. Chapter 4 considers how and in what ways Gower's descriptions of women's bodies and their attire, and also cross-dressing and sex-change, are used to convey particular attitudes to women. In Chapter 5, Gower's use of language in the descriptions of rape in the Mirour de l'Omme, the Latin glosses and the tales of the Confessio is examined. Then Gower's representation of rape is explored, especially in the Tale of Tereus and Philomena and the Tale of Lucrece, comparing them to their sources and analogues. The last chapter investigates male behaviour in the poem in order to shed light on the position of women in the poem. It discusses whether Gower presents masculinity and femininity as opposed to each other, or whether so-called masculine and feminine qualities complement each other in an ideal human being. Although here may be a difference between male and female behaviour, this does not necessarily mean that they are judged differently. A brief conclusion draws the main lines of the argument together in a discussion of pro-feminine role-models in the Confessio." Directed by Helen Cooper. [JGN 18.1]

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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