Gower Bibliography

Genial Gower: Laughter in the Confessio Amantis

Burke, Linda Barney. "Genial Gower: Laughter in the Confessio Amantis." In John Gower: Recent Readings. Papers Presented at the Meetings of the John Gower Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, 1983-88. Ed. Yeager, R.F.. Studies in Medieval Culture (26). Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, 1989, pp. 39-63.


Addresses the question of humor in CA in a rather different fashion by examining Gower's references to smiling and to laughter. She discerns three different attitudes towards laugher in medieval writing: the first two, which she labels "ascetic hostility" and "reluctant tolerance" (p. 42), are those discussed by Curtius and Kolve. But the third attitude, "which unreservedly affirms the inherent dignity of laughter" (p. 43), has equally venerable roots, she claims, and is the one that is more characteristic of Gower. She finds evidence for this attitude in the condemnation of joylessness that frequently occurs in medieval descriptions of Envy, and more positively, in the inclusion of laughter among man's natural endowments, for which she quotes Vincent of Beauvais. Both the negative and positive aspects of "natural" laughter are reflected in CA. She also finds examples in which laughter is ironic in effect, and examples in which laughter represents a rational corrective of sinful behavior. The latter are marked by a compassion and empathy that mark CA as a whole, and Burke's account of Gower's view of laughter generally supports her characterization of him as a man who could share a joke with his friend Chaucer. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. PGN 9.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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