Gower Bibliography

Chaucer, Gower and the vox populi: Interpretation and the common profit in the 'Canterbury Tales' and 'Confessio Amantis'

Behrman, Mary Davy. "Chaucer, Gower and the vox populi: Interpretation and the common profit in the 'Canterbury Tales' and 'Confessio Amantis'." PhD thesis, Emory University, 2004.


"During the final decades of the fourteenth century in England, as Lollards attempted to disseminate theological materials to the masses and rebellious peasants appropriated polemics for their own designs, the role of vernacular literature became a matter of paramount importance. This dissertation argues that Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in part as a reaction to John Gower's conservative conception of vernacular literature in Confessio Amantis. I contend that Gower, who throughout his career aligned himself with the interests of society's empowered, attempted to create a vernacular work meant only for the elite. His text reaffirms the legitimacy of the social order by creating a fictional situation in which submission to an authority, Genius, makes one hale. Throughout the Confessio, Gower maintains that society will flourish only when people know their place. Gower's work, which relies on the exegetical tradition, attempts to preclude interpretive variety, for such variety, the poet realized, could prove dangerous to the status quo. I propose that Chaucer, in contrast, anticipates that a diverse audience might access his work and, therefore, creates a text encouraging interpretive autonomy. . . ." [JGN 24.2]

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International 65 (2005): 2981A
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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