Gower Bibliography

From Head to Foot: Syllabic Play and Metamorphosis in Book I of Gower's Vox Clamantis

Zarins, Kim. "From Head to Foot: Syllabic Play and Metamorphosis in Book I of Gower's Vox Clamantis." In On John Gower: Essays at the Millenium. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Studies in Medieval Culture (46). Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2007, pp. 144-60.


Examine Gower's use of wordplay in VC 1 to depict the most terrifying aspects of rebellion, particularly a series of puns (modeled on Geoffrey of Vinsauf and Alan of Lille) in which terms such as "caput," "pes," and "cauda" can refer either to parts of the body or to parts of a word or line. Gower begins with the riddle on the parts of his own name at the beginning of Book 1. "By making his readers aware of a word's body – its "pedes," "caput," "membra" – he prepares us for the rebels' heads and feet in the ensuing chapters. For him, syllabic play provides more than a poetic opening: it offers a way of seeing social inversion through a linguistic metaphor, in which the peasants, and not the poet, do the cropping and adding of heads to empower themselves" (148). In the rest of Book 1, the peasants are transformed twice, first into domestic beasts and then into wild ones, as they also seek to monstrously transform society, and in the passages that Zarins disentangles for us, Gower's linguistic play captures the violence and perversion of both transformations. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Vox Clamantis

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