Gower Bibliography

A Concordance to the French Poetry and Prose of John Gower

Yeager, R.F and West, Mark and Hinson, Robin L and Hollifield, Adrienne (assisting). "A Concordance to the French Poetry and Prose of John Gower." Medieval Texts and Studies, 17 . East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997

Review

This new concordance to Gower's writing in French is the seventeenth in the series of "Medieval Texts and Studies" formerly published by Colleagues Press, now identified as "Colleagues Books" in their new home at Michigan State University Press, the same series that brought us Echard and Fanger's invaluable translation of The Latin Verses in the Confessio Amantis and William Burton Wilson's translation of MO (see JGN 12, no. 1). In addition to the verse text of MO, it includes the prose section headings and the table of contents to the poem; the Cinkante Balades along with its prose dedication and its marginalia; and the Traitié with its brief prose preface — in short, everything but the Latin verse and rubrics in the first volume of Macaulay's edition of Gower's works. All, including a selection of variant readings, is included in a single alphabetical list of 900 pages, without the miscellaneous supplementary indexes that occupy more than a quarter of the pages in Pickles and Dawson's concordance to Gower's English works (JGN 7, no. 1). Every word is indexed except for 226 forms listed on pages viii-ix: mostly pronouns, forms of être and avoir, prepositions, and a few adverbs and conjunctions (including the most common of the omitted forms, et). Unlike Tatlock and Kennedy's Chaucer concordance, which groups all forms of each word and all variant spellings together under a single lemma (the modern English spelling), the present concordance, like Pickles and Dawson's, is arranged strictly by spelling: each form (celeste, celestes) is entered separately, as is each variant spelling (coard, couard). The result poses much less inconvenience that it does in the concordance to the English works, however, because the spelling in Gower's French works is so much more regular. Variants like the coard/couard pair just cited (each appears in Gower's writing twice) are very difficult to find, for the vast majority of words are spelled in only a single way. As a consequence, the different inflected forms of a word are also almost always grouped closely together in the alphabetical list. The only real disadvantage to the strict spelling arrangement is that homonyms are all listed together: thus in the space of a few pages the concordance mingles the forms of three different words beginning with mu- (an adjective meaning "mute," a noun meaning "cage" with its derivatives, and a verb meaning "to move, to change, to moult" with its derivatives); the entry for noun groups together the noun meaning "name" and the negative particle "not;" and the entry for nue contains both the feminine form of the adjective "nude" and the noun meaning "cloud, sky, heaven." In all these respects, wherever any possibility of confusion might exist, the perfect complement to the concordance is provided by Macaulay's glossary, which performs all the tasks that the concordance does not: it scrupulously lists every word in Gower's French vocabulary with all of its variant spellings in a single entry; it provides cross-reference entries for spellings that are separated alphabetically from the main entry for each word; it provides a generous listing of inflected forms; and it distinguishes homonyms. The concordance performs all of the work that the glossary does not, providing, in its listing of every instance of every form, the basis for examining both contexts and frequency. Together, these are the only two tools one needs for a complete study of the vocabulary of the French vocabulary of the poet. Macaulay himself probably wished often that a concordance of precisely this sort had been available to him. But now that Macaulay has done his work so well, why is the concordance so important to the rest of us? For those whose principal interest is linguistic, the question answers itself: not only is it indispensable for the study of Gower's language, but as far as the reviewer is aware, it is the only available concordance for any body of French writing, let alone Anglo-Norman, from the entire fourteenth century. But even for those who leave the language study to others, this volume will have many uses. Only the most obvious convenience is that it provides a thematic index both to Gower's vast moralizing poem and to his lyrics, each with its different connection to CA, and a far more reliable way of locating relevant treatment of important topics than Macaulay's glossary does. All of us are also faced with the difficulties of translating the poem. Even Gower's use of apparently familiar words can sometimes be puzzling, and a list of other examples is often much more helpful than a glossary can be. (For the reviewer, this is the most common reason for turning to Pickles and Dawson.) The interest in semantics extends beyond the French works themselves. How can one do a thorough examination of Gower's multiple and often ambiguous uses of "grace" in CA, for instance, without also considering the different uses of the same word in MO and CB? (When we have a concordance to the Latin works, our tools for the study of his vocabulary will be complete.) Or to take a matter of a completely different sort, how many times does Gower's own name appear in the MSS of his works? The concordance provides three entries, one of which, since it appears in only a single MS of the Traitié, is not referenced in Macaulay's glossary. The usefulness of a work such as this is limited only by the imagination of the user, and its very existence can serve to generate questions that one might not have thought of before. For all these reasons, it is inconceivable that it not be made accessible to everyone with a serious interest in the poet, and if not in our personal collections, it certainly merits a place on the library shelf. When we fill out our purchase recommendations for the librarian, we might also remember the desirability of encouraging the publication of other scholarly reference works of this sort in the future. The volume is very handsomely printed, and is in fact much more readable than Pickles and Dawson, with only 56 lines per column instead of the 78 of the latter. There are no headwords on the page, but the editors have included a lemma at the top of each column, either in the form "prelat (25)," listing the number of occurrences, at the beginning of each entry, or "prelat — continued" when the entry extends from one column to the next; and one quickly becomes accustomed to fixing one's eye on the top of the right hand column of the recto as one flips through the pages. The lemmata might have been printed in a bolder face than the rest of the text, but again one becomes used to the editor's presentation. The most significant lapse in the book is that the "prose headings" that mark the divisions in the text of MO are cited only by a sequence number that has been assigned by the editors, not by the number of the adjacent line of text. These sequence numbers appear neither in the MS nor in Macaulay's edition, and when there are no other references, the citation can only be found with considerable guessing and searching (e.g. artifice and artifices, which occur only in prose headings "113" and "114"). The verse lines in MO are cited by preceding prose heading plus line number (e.g. "MO 3:210"), in which case the heading number is both unhelpful and unnecessary. The editors might have done better to find a way of relying on verse number alone. The only other criticism to make concerns the "Guide to the Concordance" at the beginning. Only one of the six examples cited for illustration (the last) corresponds to an actual entry in the concordance; two give mistaken forms of the abbreviation used to identify Gower's different works, and one (the second) gives a mistaken explanation of its line number references. The account of what sorts of variant readings are included is incomplete and imprecise, and does not explain such entries as "TRa 1hdG:1" (found under "gower"). These are all mere quibbles, however; there is nothing so mysterious about the concordance that it cannot be figured out with the actual text in hand. This is an extremely useful volume, and a major contribution to Gower scholarship. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 16.2]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Bibliographies, Reports, and Reference

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