Gower Bibliography

Sinning against Love in Confessio Amantis

Burrow, J. A. "Sinning against Love in Confessio Amantis." In John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition. Ed. Dutton, Elisabeth, and Hines, John, and Yeager, R.F. Cambridge: Brewer, 2010, pp. 217-29.


["No one before Gower, so far as I know," Burrow observes, "had attempted to assemble stories devoted 'specialitus' to the seven sins against love, each of them with their several branches" (219). No simple task, in Burrow's view ("I agree broadly, in fact, with Peter Nicholson, who throughout his recent study [Love and Ethics in Gower's Confessio Amantis] stresses what he describes as 'the fundamental harmony rather than opposition between God's ethical demands and love's'[218]"): dealing with it forces the character Genius sometimes to seem not "altogether clear about his priorities" (218). The key for Burrow, as for Nicholson, is the verb: when Genius seems most inconsistent, he is more than likely illuminating the way things are in "real life." But it is also, Burrow points out, the "real life" of a mono-dimensional, allegorical character Amans, "who at no point makes any real progress in the pursuit of his lady. The whole account, in fact, confines itself to just one (admittedly protracted) phase in the affair, with nothing about the origins of his passion and nothing, of course, about any happy developments to come" (229). Nor has Amans done anything to require absolution: "On more than half of the forty occasions when he challenged Amans about a sin, the lover had no fault to confess, or only a fault so trifling that Genius could only dismiss it as a 'game'" (229). Genius' final advice to so harmless a sinner—either against Love's laws or God's—is thus aptly "Foryet it thou, and so wol I." But in the process of providing us with "a very full and detailed, though always conventional, picture of the life of a disappointed lover" Gower has in the CA rendered "a very distinctive contribution to the courtly Matter of Love, unmatched both in the love lyrics and in love narratives of the time. This . . . is the greatest benefit Gower derived from his project: mapping of the Seven Sins onto the life of Amans" (229). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 30.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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