Gower Bibliography

'When reson torneth into rage': Violence in Book III of the Confessio Amantis

Donavin, Georgiana. "'When reson torneth into rage': Violence in Book III of the Confessio Amantis." In On John Gower: Essays at the Millenium. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Studies in Medieval Culture (46). Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2007, pp. 216-34.

Review

Examines the association between violence and sexuality, which is either suppressed or left unexpressed by Genius, particularly in the tales of "Phoenus and Daphne," "Canace and Machaire," and "Orestes," in which the construction of masculine selfhood either requires or results in violence against a woman. Donavin detects two conflicting sorts of taboo at work in Book 3, one preventing Genius' acknowledgment of the link between sexuality and violence, the other expressed in Genius' prohibitions against Wrath. Because of the former, Gower reveals, the latter are ineffectual in containing violence and instead result in its propagation. Gower also allows the implicit violence in heterosexual love to be revealed in his characterization of the stages of passion in "love's court" in Book 3. He reveals the antidote to this violence in the figure of Venus, who "escapes the position of the victimized feminine by actually encouraging the violent processes of heterosexual attraction" (229). The resolution does not come about until Book 8, when Venus hands Amans the glass in which he finally recognizes his old age. "The goddess, like other female characters in Book III, takes responsibility for her part in forming male identity, but does so in a way that deflects feelings about selfhood away from her and back onto the male subject" (230). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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