Gower Bibliography

"Ownership and Readership: Studies in the Provenance of the Manuscripts of Gower's Confessio Amantis."

Harris, Kate. ""Ownership and Readership: Studies in the Provenance of the Manuscripts of Gower's Confessio Amantis."." PhD thesis, University of York, 1993.


"Based on the premise that the early readers of the poem deserve the attention of their modern successors, this thesis presents for the first time a survey of the early ownership of the manuscripts of Gower's "Confessio Amantis," not suggesting that these owners and readers are necessarily one, but seeking to characterize the membership of the poet's possible audience from the text itself. By discussing in separate chapters the evidence of the provenance of the manuscripts containing excerpts of the poem (Chapter I), the documentary evidence for the history of the recorded copies which no longer survive (Chapter II), and, lastly, the evidence of the provenance of those manuscripts containing the complete text, or once containing such a text or a substantial portion of it (Chapter III), this study seeks to establish the differing readership profiles suggested by the three different forms of evidence and thus to make a general point about the interpretation, or rather, the misinterpretation and mishandling to which the evidence for the make-up of the audience(s)of the major Middle English poetic texts has been prone. The most significant findings of the research is the very clear evidence of the importance of Gower's poem to two groups widely separated in date; attention is drawn to the way in which the manuscripts repeatedly make it apparent that at the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century, the poet's work had a special place for members of the House of Lancaster, and that, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, fostered and promoted by the King's propaganda purposes, the Confessio occupied a similar place at the court of Henry VIII. The thesis acknowledges, but alo seeks to break the silence of, the evidence as a witness to the kinds of reading accorded to the Confessio by its medieval audience. Thus, where supporting evidence survives, it is always assembled to try to provide a social and literary or other intellectual context for the ownership of he poem by each member of Gower's possible medieval audience identified. Finally, in chapter IV, the concluding chapter, an account of readers' additions to the manuscripts is given from which discontinuous reading pattern are deduced, akin to the processes of reference and selection behind the creation of extracted versions of the poem." [JGN 13.1]

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies
Influence and Later Allusion

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