Gower Bibliography

The Perfect Age of Man's Life.

Dove, Mary. "The Perfect Age of Man's Life." Cambridge: Cambridge Uuiversity Press, 1986 ISBN 0521325714

Review

The "perfect age," according to Dove, is that vaguely defined period of middle age, which for medieval writers was a time of neither uncertainty nor mere transition but the prime of life, the period of gravitas as opposed to both iuventus and senectus. The first two parts of this book offer a survey of the imagery of the "perfect age" in medieval literature, drawing examples from earlier and later texts as well. In the last part, Dove discusses how the major poets of the Ricardian period invoke the conventional motif only to question it, and explore the individual's experience of living through the stages of his life rather than imposing an inherited pre?existing pattern. "The ageing process itself," she writes, "is one of Ricardian poetry's most characteristic matieres. For Gower, in Confessio Amantis, it is the most exciting avanture of all" (p. 126). In her short chapter on Gower (pp. 125?33) Dove analyzes the stages of Amans' growth into realization and Gower's use of first? and third?person narration in his account. Along the way, she takes issue with both Burrow's and Lewis' emphasis on Amans' discovery of the limitations of his old age. Like Langland's Dreamer, Amans crosses directly from iuventus to senectus, but unlike Langland, "Gower represents the threshold between the two ages as a place where consciousness of self begins" (p. 130). With "consciousness of self" comes reincorporation into the "created world" and a release from the bonds of age?decorum. At the same time, Gower "re?defines the series of the ages. Senectus as grief and loss and nakedness is experienced only during the time of transition from one age to the next, in a swoon. The age which comes after myhty youthe is an age of rest and ease and peace, an age which anticipates a calm, unadventurous transition to the eighth age of the world, the age which is, as Ambrose says, 'una et perpetua'--not a stage but a lasting state" (p. 132)--in other words, the "perfect age."] [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 9.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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