Gower Bibliography

Constructing the Virtual Family: Socializing Grief in John Gower's 'Tale of Apollonius of Tyre'

Lim, Gary. "Constructing the Virtual Family: Socializing Grief in John Gower's 'Tale of Apollonius of Tyre'." Exemplaria 22 (2010), pp. 326-48. ISSN 1699-3225


In retelling the story of Apollonius of Tyre, Gower added the passages emphasizing Antiochus' and Apollonius' grief at the real or apparent death of their wives. In their different responses, Lim argues, in this essay heavily informed by Judith Butler's analysis of the discursive construction of family and of the constitutive power of loss, Gower explores how grief either threatens both the nuclear family and the properly gendered roles on which it is based or reaffirms the family through socially constructed rituals. Gower is alone in attributing Antiochus' incest with his daughter specifically to his grief at the loss of his wife rather than to his encounter with her suitors. His turn from protector to predator illustrates the necessity of some device to hold a ruler's power in check, and thus both the force and the perpetual necessity of social conventions. Apollonius' grief is described at greater length as he is completely overcome, and he too temporarily loses power both as ruler and as father. He re-establishes his family, however, by "socializing his grief in a controlled and structured manner" (343). As he places his wife's coffin into the sea, he assures her proper burial and commemoration in a letter in which he also resumes his authority as king. He places his daughter in a foster family, reasserting the nuclear ideal, and he explicitly anticipates her future marriage with his promise not to shave his beard, reaffirming exogamic family relations in contrast to Antiochus' abuse of his daughter. And he leads a solemn public mourning for his wife upon his return to Tyre, uniting his grief to that which they endured at his departure and reaffirming his status as their ruler. The narrative thus assumes a paradoxical form, for it "allocates more space to elaborating scenes of loss and memorialization than depicting interactions among Apollonius, his wife, and Thaise as a family, and in this manner, the integrity of the family unit depends upon representations of loss. Not only does loss constitute the individual in specific ways, it also determines how the family is thought of as a 'natural' unit of society" (343). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 31.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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