Gower Bibliography

Form and Social Statement in Confessio Amantis and The Canterbury Tales

Strohm, Paul. "Form and Social Statement in Confessio Amantis and The Canterbury Tales." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 1 (1979), pp. 17-40.

Review

Strohm applies the Marxist concept of "mediation" (popularized by Raymond Williams) to Gower and Chaucer. Mediation is "the process by which a problematic social reality can be reconceived or restated, to appear in a work of art in a new and potentially more tractable guise" (17). The "problematic social reality" in the late fourteenth century is the increasing challenges to various social, political, and religious hierarchies. Strohm gives as examples the 1376 "Good Parliament," the "Merciless Parliament" of 1386-89, and the beginning of Richard II’s despotism in 1397. In response to such factionalism, Gower in the CA prologue emphasizes that his poetry aims to overcome disorder and division and will "reconcile competing classes as did Arion" (27). Gower creates unity by showing the connections between love and kingly self-governance and through the teaching of Genius we learn that the "principal characteristic of viciousness in the Confessio is a tendency to thrust oneself into or overturn the rightful order of things – to alter one’s station, to supplant others, to disrupt sanctioned relationships" (29). Gower further mediates political factionalism by creating an aesthetic structure which subordinates the individual tales to a larger vision and framework. By contrast, Chaucer’s approach in the CT is through "juxtaposition of voices, perspectives, genres" (33). Finally, Strohm relates these aesthetic choices to the authors' biographies. Gower’s financial and political independence made him more likely to promote traditional hierarchies. Chaucer was more subject to factionalism and thus saw reality as "comprised of a multiplicity of competing interests" (39). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Biography of Gower
Confessio Amantis

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