Gower Bibliography

Rewriting Difference: 'Saracens' in John Gower and Juan de Cuenca

Houlik-Ritchey, Emily. "Rewriting Difference: 'Saracens' in John Gower and Juan de Cuenca." ES: Revista de Filología Inglesa 33.1 (2012), pp. 171-89. ISSN 0210-9689


Houlik-Ritchey considers the implications of the omission of Gower's references to "Saracens" in the Castilian translation of the CA by Juan de Cuenca. Her close reading reveals considerable paradox in Gower's attitude, as he evidently finds justification for the Roman emperor's harsh reprisal in the tale of Constance in Book 2 but has Genius note the sanctity of even Muslim souls in his comments on crusading in Book 3, and also in his ambivalent portrayal of the Sultaness, Constance's first mother-in-law, who sets Constance adrift after the slaughter at the feast, but also carefully makes sure that she has sufficient provisions on her boat. The term "Saracen" itself, however, clearly denotes difference, and by implication either moral depravity or a threat to the author's and readers' Christian culture, and because of its use in earlier medieval romances, "evokes the realm of fantasy, of an aggressor against which violence is always permissible because it is always necessary" (183). The Castilian text removes the link between the Sultaness' villainy and her religion by referring to her only as "la mala vieja" ("the evil old woman"), and in the passages in which Genius considers the morality of the crusades, it uses the more generic "infiel" ("infidel") where Gower uses "Sarazin." Juan de Cuenca is obviously less concerned with "fantasies of religious aggressors threatening Christianity" (183), and although his version of the poem too is marked by the triumph of Christianity, both in the conversion of Northumberland and in the ethic that makes it possible to condemn killing even of one's enemies, the long history of Jews, Christians, and Moslems living side by side on the Iberian peninsula, while not necessarily bringing about an ideal of mutual tolerance, "created an environment in which anxieties about one's religious neighbors did not take the same form as in late medieval England" (186). [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:Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis

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