Gower Bibliography

Gower before Chaucer: Teaching Narrative and Ethics in 'The Tale of Tereus'

Koff, Leonard. "Gower before Chaucer: Teaching Narrative and Ethics in 'The Tale of Tereus'." In Approaches to Teaching the Poetry of John Gower. Ed. Yeager, R. F., and Gastle, Brian W. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2011, pp. 83-90. ISBN 9781603290999


Koff observes that in the CA "Gower's reformist voice has disappeared, . . . as has any vehement intervention into the moral or social values of the tales Genius tells" (84). Instead, Gower has introduced "'measured measures' of a storytelling discourse that promises social harmony by asking its readers to participate in the evaluation of values at a certain narrative distance" (83). His "ongoing, unruffled voice . . . is, for him, a perfect mode for breaking not the surface of a text but the concepts the text speaks" (84). In short, Gower "values form that works against itself," thereby creating "the intellectual space in which moral and social problems can be brought to readers" (84). This, in Koff's view, effectively makes Gower more accessible to students. For example, Gower's tale of Tereus and Progne, unlike its counterparts in Ovid and Chaucer's "Legend of Philomela", "removes a narrator's volatile response to his own work within that work itself" (85). Gower's teller is not present "in prepossessing ways" (85); in other words, he "deconstructs our expectations from the beginning" (87). By contrast, Chaucer in the "Legend of Good Women" already "assumes answers to questions not yet asked" (89). Koff sees as one possible explanation for this difference "something of the anxiety of influence that Gower's presence, which has yet to be valued by us, may have awakened in his friend" (90). While "teaching Gower clearly requires setting his work in the literary circles of his own day," in this essay Koff argues that in those circles Gower "may have led rather than followed" (90). [Kurt Olsson. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 31.1]

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

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