Gower Bibliography

Telling Time: Temporality and Narrative in Late Medieval English Literature

Meyers, Alyssa. "Telling Time: Temporality and Narrative in Late Medieval English Literature." PhD thesis, Columbia University, 2011.


"For late medieval English writers, temporality, the experience of living in time, proved a powerful tool. Manipulations of temporality allow authors to reshape the past, present, and future in order to create sophisticated literary meditations on political power. For example, Yorkist texts such as the "Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV" rely on a presumption of temporal continuity when they depict the Lancastrian Henry IV's usurpation of the throne sixty years earlier as a violent break in English history--a break that only the advent of Edward IV could make right. I show that these works not only rely on temporality as a thematic concern (as in the case of Edward IV), but also engage with this concept through their form. These works create their own textual temporalities, thereby enlisting readers in their politically-inflected understandings of human history. Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and Gower's 'Confessio Amantis' reveal the power, dangers, and limitations of textual temporalities produced through form. Both poems sustain multiple temporalities within their borders, and both rely on linear narrative to structure the reader's engagement with these temporalities. 'The Canterbury Tales' concerns itself with the English present, mapping its relationship to the past and uncovering the omissions, rifts, and acts of violence required to construct this present. 'Confessio Amantis,' in contrast, focuses on the present as it becomes the future, anticipating the immanent collision of history and eternity. Occupying the charged time of the end, the 'Confessio' longs for temporal unity inaccessible in the present. In its search for a new Arion, the 'Confessio' calls on the formal properties of poetry to set time right, to render whole its hybrid mixture of genres and times."

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International A72.06 (2011)
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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