Gower Bibliography

Cracks and Fissures: Gower's Poetics on the Edge

Urban, Malte. "Cracks and Fissures: Gower's Poetics on the Edge." ES: Revista de Filología Inglesa 33.1 (2012), pp. 155-70. ISSN 0210-9689


Urban begins by citing the rather horrific conclusion to Gower's version of the tale of Virginia alongside the passage in the Man of Law's Prologue (CT II.77-89) that has long been understood as a dig at Gower to demonstrate "Gower's marked preference, especially when compared to his contemporary Chaucer, for ever so slightly uncomfortable images and events and then pushing them to quite an extreme level of shocking detail, if not quite literally over the edge of normally acceptable behavior. Alongside Virginius, we have infanticide, incest, duplicity and other kinds of cruelty. . . .Gower's Confessio . . . is not for the squeamish" as the poet "situates himself on the edge between morality and 'unkynde abhominaciouns'" (157-58). In fact, Urban argues, "Gower uses all levels of his texts, from content to multi-linguality and manuscript layout, for his location of his poetry on the edge between acceptable and unacceptable behavior" (158). In the VC, the "edge" is actually an "edgy space" or "chasm" between "past and present, good and wrong, righteous and sinful" (159). The CA itself, in its unstable juxtaposition of two different languages, "is often confusingly situated on the edge between Latin and English, as well as between competing moral messages" (160); and in the passage at the beginning of Book 1 in which he defines his project, "Gower is situating his book quite specifically on the edge between lust and lore, and as he proceeds with the text, it soon becomes apparent that this is also an edge between good and bad, virtue and evil" (164). Urban's final two examples come from Gower's tales of the "Trojan Horse" and "Florent." The latter, in his reading, like the much more sophisticated "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," works "to highlight the cracks and fissures on the edges of the chivalric code. It is impossible for either Gawain or Florent to perfectly embody the code of chivalry, but their reactions to the pressures of specific situations display the kind of flexibility and creativity that Gower's texts in particular urge upon their readers" (168). [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:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Vox Clamantis

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