Gower Bibliography

Dialogics and Prosody in Chaucer.

Guthrie, Steve. "Dialogics and Prosody in Chaucer." In Bakhtin and Medieval Voices. Ed. Farrell, Thomas J.. Gainesville: University of Florda Press, 1995, pp. 94-108.


In a lively and thought-provoking essay, Guthrie uses Bakhtin's notions of polyglossia as a way of approaching the complex effects of Chaucer's metrical variety and his response to the linguistics diversity of late fourteenth-century England. His foil through most of his discussion is Gower, who is found to be more rigid metrically (as we already knew), but who also feels constrained to keep his French and his English separate from one another rather than to force them into confrontation. Some of Guthrie's empirical observations on Gower's meter in contrast to Chaucer and also to contemporary French poets such as Machaut are useful contributions to our understanding of Gower's verse. Both the real value of his study with regard to Chaucer and also the irritating reductiveness of much of his use of Gower are represented, however, by passages such as this one: "Gower's line is ruled by ergon, the submission of linguistic material to the authority of an abstract metrical system. The presence of French words in either his English or his French line makes it a bilingual ergon, but essentially it is no different from a monolingual one. Its faith is in the ultimate tractability of words. Chaucer's line is ruled by energeia, the animation of linguistic material in tension with a concrete metrical system based in the material itself; 'no ideas but in things.' Its faith is in the ultimate vitality of words. Its metrical complexity is rooted in its linguistic complexity and its capacity for polyglossic perspective and laughter, the two prerequisites of what Bakhtin calls novelistic discourse ('Prehistory' 50" (p. 99). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 17.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Style, Rhetoric, and Versification

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