Gower Bibliography

'Lat the chaf be stille': Exemplary Fictions is Late Medieval England.

Allen, Elizabeth Gage. "'Lat the chaf be stille': Exemplary Fictions is Late Medieval England." PhD thesis, University of Michigan, 1997.


Expanded abstract supplied by the author: "Exemplary literature perpetuates the absolutist notion that a past event, the narration and reception of that event, and the reader;s social behavior exist in absolute causal alignment. But Middle English texts in the exemplary mode, from conduct-books to ambitious poetry, rarely carry out their own claims of integrity. This study explores how several writers--including Gower, Chaucer, Caxton, and Henryson--anticipate a wide range of new secular audiences, attempting to both constrain interpretation and open readers to the transformative powers of literature. Drawing on recent theories of translation, imitation, and intertextuality, the study investigates how textual imitation both enables and complicates exemplary imitation: how, that is, the relations between 'olde bokes' and new suggests relations between new books and new readers. Chapter 2 and 3 argue that, in the last two books of the CA, Gower increasingly advocates the fictive register as educational method. Chapter 2, "Recognition and Reflection: Reading Women in Two exemplary Compilations," paries his "Apollonius of Tyre" with Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry in order to examine the connections between moral injunction and imaginative fiction. Unlike the violent injunctive discourse of the Chevalier de la Tour Landry, "Apollonius of Tyre" represents moral choice as an interpretative process demanding readerly acts of discrimination, exemplified by Thaise's reinterpretation of her silent father. Genius's moralizing and Amans's resistance to the tale encourage us to read the tale better than they do. In concluding the CA with "Apollonius of Tyre," Gower makes his broadest demands upon his readers and his most ambitious claim for the educational value of imaginative fiction. Chapter 3, "From Endorsement to Disavowal: The Politics of Exemplarity in the Tale of Virginia," examines Gower's version of the tale of Virginia (at the end of Book 7) along with Livy's and Chaucer's versions. In Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, Virginia's father saves her virginity by stabbing her in the public forum, and the act constitutes a successful call to revolutionary action. Gower renders the father tyrannical and suppresses the efficacy of the revolution. Livy's apparent endorsement of Virginia's death emerges in Gower as a rigid form of historical truth-telling in which the exemplum must be destroyed in order to remain exemplary. Gower translates Livy's exemplary efficacy into an argument for the political importance of metaphor--and of fiction itself. Chapter 1, '"Grisilde is deed": Reflecting Audience in Late Medieval England,' lays out the study's methods. Chapter 4, 'Alienation and Lectio Facilior: The Pardoner and His Audiences,' examines Chaucer's 'Pardoner's Tale' through the lends of its reception in fifteenth-century manuscripts and in the Tale of Beryn; and Chapter 5, 'Chaucer's Criseyde in Henryson's "poleist glas,"' examines the Testament of Cresseid as an exemplary response to Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde." Directed by Karla Taylor. [JGN 17.2]

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International 55 (1997): 1699A
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata