Gower Bibliography

Beyond the Concordance: Semantic and Mythic Structures in Gower’s Tale of Florent

Phelan, Walter S. "Beyond the Concordance: Semantic and Mythic Structures in Gower’s Tale of Florent." Neophilologus 61 (1977), pp. 461-79.


Phelan argues that the existence of a concordance of the CA will have a major impact on the study of Gower, if used appropriately. He suggests that "there is a strain of the unconscious in the diction of the ancient masters which goes beyond rhetorical principles; and critics need now to proceed beyond the concordance to the construction of a personal literary thesaurus – an idiosyncratic arrangement of the words of an author's language based on the careful consideration of the frequency and kinds of association" (461). On the basis of psychological and structuralist principles, Phelan maintains that the words which recur most frequently within a narrative "must form a network of associations which define in an existential way the central theme of the story" (464). The test case for this theory is the story of Florent in Book 1 of the CA. By means of a series of tables and calculations, Phelan arrives at a number of "first-level words" (467) that separate Gower's version from Chaucer's, both thematically and plot-wise. Gower's key terms are "covenant," "strengthe, "trowthe" and "schape," each of which receives detailed explication. In their totality these words reveal that the underlying trajectory of the narrative is one that "describes the development of the animus or masculine psyche" (476). In the end, then, "the semantic structure parallels and embraces the mythic structure" (472). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Language and Word Studies
Confessio Amantis

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