Gower Bibliography

Chaucer and his English Contemporaries

Kirk, Elizabeth D. "Chaucer and his English Contemporaries." In Geoffrey Chaucer: A Collection of Original Articles. Ed. Economou, George D. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975, pp. 111-127.


Kirk surveys a number of English works and writers that Chaucer may have known or drawn from. The first of these is Gower, whose CA is a model of the plain style (as C. S. Lewis called it). Gower's poetry is a combination of "simplicity of style and decorative intricacy of structure" (112), although Kirk also goes on to call Gower's spare, direct style "limpid" (113). Kirk agrees with J. A. Burrow that both poets tend to work "concentrically, embedding simpler units in larger, formal one" (114). This process of encapsulation allows them to explore various parallel views of love (the different kinds of Venuses). Gower explores the meaning of love by combining personification allegory (in the frame) with narratives of individual people and situations. He is thus able to combine lucid narrative with lucid moralization. Chaucer, by contrast, dramatizes both levels of understanding within his narratives. Chaucer communicates by juxtaposition of narratives. In Gower's hands, by contrast, encapsulation "becomes a delightful puzzle, a masterpiece of the fluid Gothic tracery of fourteenth-century English windows, which makes the epithet which their contemporary, the French poet Deschamps, attached to Chaucer more applicable to Gower [--] "grand translateur" (115). [CvD]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Confessio Amantis

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