Gower Bibliography

John Gower

Street, Ethel. "John Gower." London Mercury 24 (1931), pp. 230-242.

Review

Street generally argues that Gower is caught between his own age and the sentimentality of courtly love fashionable in France two centuries earlier (230). In the course of this argument, Street also comments on everything from Gower's politics to his style. After a brief discussion of Gower's disaffection with Richard II, Street describes the Prologue of the CA as idealistic, foggy, and vague. There are only brief moments – such as his criticism of the clergy – where Gower approaches "the close analysis and clear vision of Langland" (230). In addition, Gower's "modern" (232) quality is that he opposes fatalism and thinks independently. The latter quality is demonstrated by his habit of inserting odd digressions and morals into his tales. At the same time, Gower makes "heroic efforts to be consistent" (232); the CA is unified by Gower's critical reconstructive spirit and his honesty" (232). After these general comments, Street pursues her main theme: Gower's treatment of courtly love. Whereas Andreas Capellanus and Chrétien de Troyes treat love as "illicit and adulterous" (234), Gower prefers monogamy and Christian love. The most important figure in his allegory is "Daunger" and Gower never "idealises amorous abandonment" (235). Street increasingly compares Gower to Chaucer, and argues that Gower delights in sentimentality, manners, and abstract moralizing, whereas Chaucer specializes in realism, humour, and psychology (although Gower is the better sociologist). Street also briefly praises Gower's "In Praise of Peace" and describes Gower's style as smooth and graceful. Gower uses images primarily for clarity (rather than ornamentation) and his wisdom tends to the proverbial and the commonplace (239). Street illustrates these stylistic features by comparing Gower and Chaucer's versions of the story of Medea. She concludes with a brief description of the story of Petronella to show that while Gower is no match for Chaucer, he should nevertheless be appreciated for his "fine pathos . . . delicacy of sentiment . . . [and his] smooth verse" (241). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
In Praise of Peace
Confessio Amantis

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