Gower Bibliography

On Romanticism in the Confessio Amantis

Lawlor, John. "On Romanticism in the Confessio Amantis." In Patterns of Love and Courtesy: Essays in Memory of C. S. Lewis. Ed. Lawlor, John. London: Edward Arnold, 1966, pp. 122-140.


Lawlor, writing in a commemorative volume for C. S. Lewis, takes issue with Lewis's belief that Gower is at times romantic "in the nineteenth-century meaning of the word" (qtd. by Lawlor 122). Lawlor argues that Romanticism ultimately revolves around the question of belief. C. S. Lewis himself noted that the old gods must die before they can "wake again in the beauty of acknowledged myth" (qtd. by Lawlor 123). The romantic sense of a pleasing terror (an aspect of the sublime) depends on a mythology of the supernatural and magical which is known to be untrue but which is entertained by a willing suspension of disbelief, as Coleridge put it. The problem with Lewis's examples of Gower's romanticism is that in each instance there is no suspension of disbelief. For instance, Medea's magic is still considered within the realm of possibility in the medieval world. Lawlor observes that the same can be said for the famous line about the "beaute faye" (fairy beauty) upon the faces of the dead in the Tale of Rosiphilee: "That which is faye in the sense which concerns us is thought of as a possible mode of being" (134). Similarly, Lewis's examples of romanticism from the story of Nectanabus and the Tale of Ulysses and Telegonus are taken out of context. The reason why Lewis finds Gower romantic is because to him the Middle Ages appears far away in time, a realm of wonders and marvels, located at the edge of what is known: "When, in a later age, everything has been explored, desire shifts ground; and it is then that the apparatus of the old world, the monsters, the demons, all the exciting glimpses at the margin of the map, comes into new life" (137). [CvD]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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