Gower Bibliography

Reading the reader: Metafictional romance in Ricardian London

Gould, Mica Dawn. "Reading the reader: Metafictional romance in Ricardian London." PhD thesis, Purdue University, 2006.


"The Ricardian poets have been seen in the past as rejecting their native tradition in favor of a more "sophisticated" continental mode. I contend, however, that Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower continue their English predecessors' themes of public duty and morality. Although by the fourteenth century Middle English romances had already begun to distance themselves from their French antecedents in terms of ethics and themes, the Ricardian romancers of London in the 1380s and 90s took this distancing a step further. Indeed, instead of embracing the literary themes of French romances, these tales explicitly reject the courtly values and ethics of continental literature and are thus in many ways a natural development of Middle English romance tradition. I argue that by both distancing themselves from the literature of the continent and addressing current socio-political issues, these works participated in a nation building project and formed the beginnings of an English national literature. As an expression of, and means for, this distinctive style of English romance, these texts all portray characters reading. While the progressive shift from oral, communal reading to silent, individual reading in the fourteenth century encouraged a multiplicity of interpretations, the danger inherent in critiquing the king and court constrained the poets to use allusion and allegory in referencing political concerns. I show that these two forces combine to cause an alteration in the very structure of narrative to create a reflexive and multilayered metafictional environment. By depicting failed acts of interpretation of French romances within the tales themselves, the Ricardian poets criticize the king's own predilection for French literature and create a sort of metafictional boot camp through which they train their readers in both what to read and how to interpret." Directed by Ann W. Astell.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International 68.2A (2007)
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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