Gower Bibliography

Images of Kingship in Chaucer and His Ricardian Contemporaries.

Rayner, Samantha. "Images of Kingship in Chaucer and His Ricardian Contemporaries." Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2008 ISBN 9781843841746

Review

Rayner invokes John Burrow's "Ricardian" periodization (in "Ricardian Poetry" [1971]), in some measure to reassess its currency in light of subsequent scholarship, in some measure to go beyond it by offering fresh, clos(er) readings of CA, "Piers Plowman," "Pearl," "Cleanness," "Patience," and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," and a variety of Chaucer: "Lak of Stedfastnesse," "Ballad of Fortune," "Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse," the Dream poems, "Troilus and Criseyde," and "Canterbury Tales," ultimately with an aim to "show that the instabilities of the Ricardian label can resolve themselves into some solid conclusions about the ways in which major poets of the period responded to kingship" (4). She devotes her first chapter to Gower, focusing almost exclusively on Book 7 of CA, with very occasional forays into other Books and works, on the ground that "this establishes the widest exempla of references to kingship" (4). Rayner has a way with a summation, and one can do no better than to quote her on her own work: "Gower is the poet most openly concerned with the theme of kingship, and his 'Confessio' relentlessly examines the different types of king and the effect of their rule on their subjects. Yet even he contains this exploration within a very specific framework of an individual's journey towards greater self-governance, and one, moreover, who is not a king. Amans's behavour [sic] is paralleled with the kings who [sic] Gower discusses, but he is never described as anything other than a rather lowly cleric; though Gower includes a Mirror for Princes in Book VII of his work, it is to Amans that Genius directs it, and Amans turns out to be none other than Gower himself. What Gower indicates is that such advice is universally applicable, and that kingship is not only the responsibility of the king himself. All subjects must try to be like an ideal king, like Apollonius, whom Gower holds up as the epitome of wise and effective governance. The moral governance is the vital aspect of Gower's treatment of kingship, and it is this that transcends any other relevance to real kings that he makes in his poem" (161). Although Rayner offers few original insights about Gower per se, she nonetheless chooses insightfully among secondary sources, and quotes judiciously from, in particular, Nigel Saul, Russell Peck, Diane Watt, Kurt Olsson, and James Simpson in support of her points. Her reading of Book 7 is a satisfyingly cohesive one, its strength residing chiefly in how she applies a similar insightful judiciousness to selecting passages from CA. Indeed, often she calls attention to lines seldom dwelt upon--and in so doing succeeds in refreshing Gower's work in surprising ways, much as a washing and new paint can make familiar facades seem suddenly new. [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 28.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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