Gower Bibliography

Rhetorical Gower: Aristotelianism in the Confessio Amantis's Treatment of ‘Rhetorique'

Donavin, Georgiana. "Rhetorical Gower: Aristotelianism in the Confessio Amantis's Treatment of ‘Rhetorique'." In John Gower: Manuscripts, Readers, Contexts. Ed. Urban, Malte. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2009, pp. 155-73.


"John Gower and other Aristotelians like him enquired into how speech convinced each individual to behave morally and thus to rule himself, his kingdom, or world rightly" (157). Thus for Donavin, the key to the structure of the Confessio Amantis is a proper understanding of Aristotle's "Rhetoric" as filtered for Gower through Roger Bacon, and especially the "Commentary" of Giles of Rome, as well as "possibly through one of the numerous abbreviations of the "Rhetoric" in medieval English manuscripts" (158). Despite the fact that "scholars have been reluctant to acknowledge the influence of Aristotle's "Rhetoric" in fourteenth-century England . . . because English university statutes do not mention the text until the fifteenth century . . .common sense dictates that the 'Rhetoric' had some influence over intellectual conversations about persuasive language" (159). Through his legal studies, Gower could have acquired "a much broader understanding of Aristotelian rhetorical appeals and their political applications than is offered in his basic source, 'De regimine principum'" (160). But from Giles' "Commentary" Gower would have discovered an Aristotle with a "new psychological emphasis to rhetorical studies" which placed him in the company of Cicero and Boethius in the connection of persuasion and ethics (161). A good deal like James Simpson ("Sciences and the Self") in her contention that the CA "portrays an Aristotelian psychomachia of invention, a scene in which Reason and Will conjoin to produce morally compelling speech" (162). Focusing her discussion on Book VII, Donavin finds "the purpose of Book VII's section on 'Rhetorique'" to be to "highlight the discipline in order to underscore [Gower's] own discursive assumptions for the entire poem" (168). "Through Aristotelian rhetoric, mediated by Giles of Rome, John Gower modeled a psychomachia of persuasion and taught in the 'Rhetorique' section of Book VII its high principles. Like Roger Bacon, Giles of Rome, and later Francis Bacon, Gower in the Confessio Amantis preserves an Aristotelian form of discourse that heals the soul and offers hope to the kingdom" (173). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 30.1}

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Confessio Amantis

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