Gower Bibliography

Courtly Love in Chaucer and Gower

Dodd, William George. "Courtly Love in Chaucer and Gower." Boston: Ginn, 1913


Chapter 3, "The Element of Love in Gower's Works" (38-90), examines aspects of courtly love in Gower's works. Dodd opens with a brief description of the CB, which he divides into two sections: ballads 1-5 which represent the happiness of the accepted lover, and ballads 6-51, which are universal in character and treat the feelings of lovers in general, "whether the course of their love runs smooth or not" (39). After providing further subdivisions, Dodd observes that although the ballads are often rather lifeless and conventional, they demonstrate the poet's ability to rival his French contemporaries in expressing the ideas of courtly love with grace and elegance. The rest of the chapter focuses primarily on the CA. Dodd notes the variety of influences on the CA, including confessional manuals, dream visions, works of courtly love, and sermon exempla. This mixture is also evident in the treatment of love, which not only takes on an ecclesiastical character, but also has feudal aspects, something especially evident in all the references to the "court" of Venus and Cupid (see the quotations on 47-49). The power and fickleness of these deities of love are also extensively illustrated by Dodd, and the conventionality of their characterization is stressed throughout. Other conventional themes that are discussed are secrecy, the figure of the lady, unrequited love, the allegorical figure Danger, and the ennobling effects of love (54-62). The next portion of Dodd's chapter examines the Seven Deadly Sins to see whether Gower successfully synthesizes his theological concerns with the religion of love (62-75). Dodd feels that Gower generally creates a sense of harmony between the two systems. For instance, the vices of supplantation and slander are expressly forbidden in Andreas Capellanus's code of love. On the other hand, Dodd does find some moments of discord. When Genius condemns fear and forgetfulness on the part of the lover he departs from courtly conceptions. Likewise, his assertion that Love detests jealousy and his opposition to love-drunkenness is quite uncharacteristic of the tradition of courtly love. Lastly, the treatment of chastity in Book 7 and the condemnation of incest in Book 8 have "nothing to do with the lover's shrift" (74), but are rather tied to the affairs of church (incest) and state (the advice on chastity is offered to Richard II). Next, Dodd returns to the enumeration of courtly love conventions in the CA, including the description of the effects of love upon the feelings, and the rhetorical use of contradictions (something also evident in the minor poem "Carmen de variis in amore passionibus breviter compilatum"). The question Dodd ends with is whether there is anything in the CA which "lifts it above mere conventionality" (80). The answer, for Dodd, is in the affirmative, not only because Gower's exempla are well-told, but also because the characterization of the lover and the lady lacks all extravagance and idealization, and is instead sensible, homely, and treated with "practical common sense" (81). However, despite the sympathetic treatment of love (visible for instance in the tale of "Canace and Machaire"), Gower ultimately dissociates himself from courtly love, and in the Traitié even condemns it. [CvD]

Item Type:Book
Additional Information:Rpt., Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1959.
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Minor Latin Poetry
Cinkante Balades
Confessio Amantis
Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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