Gower Bibliography

Newfangled Readers in Gower's 'Apollonius of Tyre'

Allen, Elizabeth. "Newfangled Readers in Gower's 'Apollonius of Tyre'." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007), pp. 419-64.


Allen titles the third of six sub-sections (or fourth of seven, if one chooses to count the unheaded initial four pages and a half) of her voluminously erudite essay "Repetition and the Wandering Cure"—an indicative agnomen appropriate, perhaps, to suggest a sense of the whole. Allen begins with a direct claim: "For Gower… 'Apollonius' thematizes incest in order to meditate on audience reception: incestuous desire, repeatedly encountered and avoided throughout the narrative, necessitates a series of interpretive acts that figure the relation between king and subject as a relation of mutual audience. The interpretive effort that bolsters monarchy while attending to the needs of its subjects requires imagination on the part of both monarch and subjects. I argue in this essay that incest in 'Apollonius' stages an exploration of such imaginative activity: a series of kings' daughters are figured as new audiences who reinterpret in order to reaffirm monarchial power" (p. 419). Building upon Freudian psychoanalytics and psychoanalytic criticism (Brooks, Fradenburg, Scanlon, Bullón-Fernández, Watt), Allen identifies these targeted/and or developed "new audiences"—the "newfangled readers" of her title—as two-fold but overlapping: everyone who, in the end (and via substantial imaginative maturation) "gets it," i.e., comes to full grips with Gower's process in "Apollonius" and seizes its meaning (pp. 460-62); and women, "a female audience reflective of the communal nature of reading among women in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England" (p. 458). Key in Allen's approach is the concept of transference. At its least level transference converts Amans' fictive (and imaginary) love-life to "the story of John Gower's temporal existence" (p. 463); at its more significant application transference becomes the means by which "'Apollonius' calls attention to its audience's involvement with the plot and hence, in the structure of relations between authority and subject." Thus for Allen the CA is not ultimately an exemplary work; rather, "far from modeling exactly how readers should conduct themselves, subjecting them to morals, the story mediates [sic] on how readers garner authority and make therapeutic contributions to meaning" (p. 463). And, one assumes, mutatis mutandis to kingship and community, although by the essay's conclusion the political dimension held out at its opening seems in danger of being overwhelmed, if not entirely displaced, by foci interior and personal. [RFY. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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