Gower Bibliography

Affections of the Mind: The Politics of Sacramental Marriage in Late Medieval England.

Lipton, Emma. "Affections of the Mind: The Politics of Sacramental Marriage in Late Medieval England." Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame University Press, 2007

Review

Lipton's thesis is that a "politicized negotiation of social and religious authority can be found in late medieval England where an emergent lay middle strata of society used the sacramental model of marriage to exploit contradictions within medieval theology and social hierarchy" (p. 1). From the twelfth century on. "the substance of the sacrament of marriage was the mutual love between the two members of the couple. This love in turn was both the sign and substance of God's Grace" (p. 2). Lipton thus sets out to trace "the unprecedented popularity of the sacramental model of marriage as a literary topic in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to its role as a contested category in the ideological conflicts between the laity and clergy, and between the members of the middle strata and the aristocracy." (p. 2). By way of example, she concentrates her study on four texts, devoting a chapter to each: Chaucer's "Franklin's Tale," the N-Town plays, the "Book of Margery Kempe," and the eighteen Anglo-French balades (which Lipton calls "ballads") comprising John Gower's "Traitié pour essampler les amantz marietz." Lipton takes up Gower in chapter two. She sees both Gower and his "Traitié" fitting very neatly within her targeted concerns—Gower himself because he epitomizes what Sylvia Thrupp ("The Merchant Class of Medieval London") defined as the "middle strata" of society, "the lesser types of gentry, the merchant class, and perhaps also the more substantial semi-mercantile elements in London and other cities" (quoting Thrupp, p. 9), and the "Taitié" "because it is in this poem [sic] that Gower most thoroughly explores the sacramental model and . . . ties marriage not to the governance of the realm but to the values of his own social position" (p. 18). In the process he redefines masculine virtues as more properly domestic rather than military by demoting classical and chivalric heroes (e.g., Ulysses and Tristan are "domestic horrors"); relocates the onus for moral and sexual responsibility onto men, rather than women; and rescues virtuous marriage from the traditional misrepresentation of clerical misogynists by ranking it above chastity. Lipton indeed holds Gower's work in (what only can be described as refreshingly) high regard. She identifies as his chief concern in the "Traitié" establishing marriage as a mark of superior status, and claims rather ringingly that "in fact the ballads of the "Traitié" participate in a new social vision for the emergent upper middle strata of society and reveal the ideological roots of the public voice of Ricardian poetry in a new masculinized vision of privat life" (p. 18)—and rather intriguingly that "the valuation of private behavior over class status makes the depiction of marriage in the poem similar to the representation of manners in conduct literature: as a venue for the development of an ideology of social mobility" (p. 87). [RFY. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz

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