Gower Bibliography

The Voice of an Exile: From Ovidan Lament to Prophecy in Book I of John Gower's Vox Clamantis.

Kobayashi, Yoshiko. "The Voice of an Exile: From Ovidan Lament to Prophecy in Book I of John Gower's Vox Clamantis." In Through a Classical Eye: Transcultural and Transhistorical Visions in Medieval English, Italian and Latin Literature in Honour of Winthrop Wetherbee. Ed. Galloway, Andrew and Yeager, R.F. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009, pp. 363-80. ISBN 9780802099174


It is difficult to do justice in a short summary to this closely-argued, entirely persuasive essay. Those with any interest either in the Vox Clamantis or Gower's centonic Latin strategies are therefore urged to read it themselves. Essentially Kobayashi demonstrates, by a carefully supported examination of Ovid's exilic poetry—"Tristia," "Heroides," and the Evander section of the "Fasti," added during revisions made in Tomis—along with the Philomela and Procne narrative from the "Metamorphoses," that Gower selectively borrows and incorporates Ovidian lines and passages into the Visio section of the VC in order to invoke the isolated, muted and feminized experience Ovid projects in his works composed in exile. Gower' s skillful choices permit him to triangulate the fate and sentiments of Hecuba at Troy's fall with the city of London ravaged (raped) by the 1381 rebels and with his own persona/poetic voice, hiding alone in the woods, emasculated, fearful of discovery and violation. The narrator/Gower's experience begins to turn, however, when the fearsome bestiary transforms into the dream of the voyaging ship (VC I.1600 ff.). Unlike Ovid, who decries his friends' abandonment of him in his hour of need, on the dream ship the narrator/Gower "is accompanied by 'many others of the noble class' ("[i]ngentui sexus alios . . . plures" [VC I.1603-04] (353), who join him in "a penitential sorrow" and "an admission of sin" (354). This facilitates a move away from Ovid to the Bible, specifically the Book of Lamentations, credited to the prophet Jeremiah. Kobayashi shows that the movement here is at once backwards—Jeremiah's early experience as an observer of Jerusalem's fall to Nebuchadnezzar recalls Troy's sacking and the narrator/Gower's fear of violation by the mob—and forwards, through Jeremiah's empowerment by the voice of the Lord, and consequent reinvention as the prophet and leader of his people in repenting their transgressions, the direct means to their ultimate deliverance. The obvious parallel with Jeremiah thus at the end of the Visio enables the narrator/Gower to restore his courage—and his masculinity—and speak powerfully in the ensuing books. [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 29.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Vox Clamantis

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