Gower Bibliography

Gower's Poetics of the Literal

Edwards, Robert R. "Gower's Poetics of the Literal." In John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition. Ed. Dutton, Elisabeth, and Hines, John, and Yeager, R.F. Cambridge: Brewer, 2010, pp. 59-73.


Edwards discusses the theoretical dimensions of the "literal" within medieval exegesis and then explores Gower's use of the literal in his narratives, in two aspects. In the first, ("Word and Conceit"), he demonstrates how Gower employs enigmas (in "Florent," "Apollonius of Tyre," and others) and significant material objects (in "Rosiphelee," "The Trump of Death," et al.) in pursuit of his goal, announced in the Prologue, "to recover signification so that words align with ideas and ideas with things in order to advance the project of reform" (63). In the second ("Prophetic Literalism"), he explores how the "literal" operates within the prophetic strain of MO, VC, and especially CA. In tales such as "The Three Questions," "Alexander and the Pirate," and "Lucrece," the literal narrative can be seen demystifying some of the most arbitrary assumptions underlying contemporary social hierarchy. "From the standpoint of poetics, perhaps the most interesting work of prophecy in the Confessio Amantis can be seen in the pressure of history as it bears on structures of cultural belief which are seemingly positioned outside time and contingency, beyond deliberation and debate. Prophecy in this sense operates poetically through a literalism that makes visible the systems of power that organize life and experience in a social world of division, reversal, and mutability" (70). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 30.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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