Gower Bibliography

Genius and the Practice of Ethical Reading

Farber, Annika. "Genius and the Practice of Ethical Reading." ES: Revista de Filología Inglesa 33.1 (2012), pp. 137-53. ISSN 0210-9689


Farber presents a defense of "a method of reading that explicitly guides the reader towards the ethical and didactic content of the text" (144), as opposed to "allegorical reading," which in the interpretation of the "Confessio Amantis" has (in the examples she cites, most from the 1970s and none later than 1992) placed more emphasis on what is not present in Gower's text at the expense of what is, and has been used to diminish or undermine Genius' authority as moral instructor. Following Minnis and others, she examines the background for the practice of "ethical reading" in the "accessus ad auctores," demonstrating that "a long tradition of allegorical interpretations [of a particular text] . . . does not rule out the possibility of using the text for other purposes" (146). Such purposes are evident, she maintains, in Gower's tales of "Phebus and Daphne" and "Ceyx and Alceone." In each, she notes, "the moral Genius provides is not a normative prescription. He is not giving Amans strict rules to follow, but rather, offering him exemplary scenarios that highlight specific ethical issues. If Amans is going to find relief from his love, he must learn to read his own situation in terms of its broader ethical implications" (148). In that way, the poem enacts the "very process of reading" that Gower expects from his reader as well (151). [Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 32.1]

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:This special issue of ES is also titled "Gower in Context(s): Scribal, Linguistic, Literary and Socio-historical Readings," edited by Laura Filardo-Llamas, Brian Gastle, Marta Gutiérrez Rodríguez, and Ana Saez-Hidalgo.
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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