Gower Bibliography

Boethian Apocalypse: Studies in Middle English Vision Poetry

Cherniss, Michael D.. "Boethian Apocalypse: Studies in Middle English Vision Poetry." Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1987

Review

Cherniss' chapter on CA (pp. 99-118) is for the most part a reprint of his essay on "The Allegorical Figures in Gower's Confessio Amantis," Res Publica Litterarum, 1 (1978), 7-20. In the earlier essay Cherniss outlined the roles of Venus, Nature, and Reason in the poem and gave particular attention to the difficulties posed by Genius, especially to what he saw as his shifting relationship to Venus in Books 7 and 8. He also presented his view of the ending of the poem as "arbitrary and unsatisfactory," creating an ad hoc resolution for a particular old man rather than a final reconciliation of the forces the various allegorical figures represent, and requiring the acquiescence of Nature and Venus, thus contradicting the doctrine of individual responsibility expressed in the Prologue. The expanded version adds a discussion of the poem as a "Boethian Apocalypse," emphasizing the elements that link it to and make it different from the other medieval poems that make up a single tradition deriving from the De Consolatione Philosophiae. Cherniss points out how Venus and Genius share the role of Boethian authority figure and he describes Amans as a "prototypical Boethian narrator" whose consciousness is the focus of the poem. Gower's innovation (as noted by Lewis) was the transfer of the confession from the goddess of the vision to the visionary narrator himself. Gower's poem is more static than most works in the genre, however, because of the difficulty of marking the progress of the argument and the development of the narrator's consciousness within the confession frame, which is weakened by the many long tales and by the long expository sections. A problem of a different sort is created by the Prologue. "The decorum of the Boethian Apocalypse demands that the reader experience the visionary process of enlightenment along with the narrator," but the Prologue reveals not only the problem but also the solution before the poem has even begun, and Gower's attempt to start again at the opening of Book 1 is at best clumsy. Readers of CA will also want to look at Cherniss' chapters on DCP, De Planctu Naturae, RR, PF, Pearl, BD, The Kingis Quair, and The Testament of Cresseid. Previewed in JGN, 5, no. 2. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 6.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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