Gower Bibliography

Gower's Triple Tongue (1): Teaching Across Gower's Languages

Echard, Siân. "Gower's Triple Tongue (1): Teaching Across Gower's Languages." 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. 91-99. ISBN 9781603290999

Review

Echard argues that "Gower's trilingualism . . . can in fact frame a survey course, becoming a touchstone and recurrent point of reference" (91). She presents that frame in four modules--of material culture, manuscripts, multilingualism itself, and authority--to be spread across a syllabus, with each to be offered in a class or part of a class session. The first unit, on material culture, begins with a discussion of Gower's tomb. Whereas "Lydgate lacks both a monument and a tradition" and "Chaucer's monument is of a piece with the desire of later tradition to canonize him . . . Gower's tomb is clearly the poet's own statement, his summary of his poetic career, his staking of his own posterity" (92). This discussion leads to a brief account of recent archaeological studies of the tomb, Southwark, and Saint Mary Overeys, and Gower's positioning as, for example, a city poet. From the three books serving as the pillow for poet's head in the effigy, Echard advances to a discussion of Gower's mastery of three languages, the books in which they are employed, and the manuscripts in which they appear: of particular note are the surviving Gower manuscripts that "combine more than one language," and especially "the Trentham manuscript, a collection of pieces in Latin, French, and English" (94). Echard then treats the changing status of each of these languages in the culture of fourteenth-century England and concludes by exploring Gower's quest of his "poetic authority" or "right and obligation to speak" (96) by means of his very choice of language. [Kurt Olsson. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 31.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Language and Word Studies
Biography of Gower
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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