Gower Bibliography

Authorship, Imitation, and Refusal in Late-Medieval England.

Edwards, Robert R. "Authorship, Imitation, and Refusal in Late-Medieval England." Swiss Papers In English Language and Literature: SPELL 25 (2011), pp. 51-73. ISSN 0743-7226


For Edwards, "John Gower is arguably the paradigmatic author in late-medieval England" (57). He seeks to defend this claim via a replacement, and hence a redefinition, of the relevant critical terminology. Rather than adopting the standard dichotomy of the past thirty years, of "exegesis and pedagogy" and the attempt to align authorship in the Middle Ages with "the influence of Latin traditions on European vernaculars" (52), Edwards proposes "a second set of terms—imitation and refusal—to complement exegesis and pedagogy as sources for describing medieval authorship" (52). By the former, Edwards intends a practice of "reproducing, revising, and reimagining canonical sources" with the ultimate goal of producing "an original copy that rivals yet remains subordinate to its models." (53) The contradiction inherent in this framing of purpose necessitates "refusal . . . a literary strategy that relocates authorship within a new set of terms, as a possibility strategically denied in favor of other possibilities of invention. Refusal thus repositions authors and their works with respect to literary canons, institutions, and tradition. As a gesture of difference, it also points toward the stakes of authorship in the domains of society, politics, and culture" (53). Edwards' strong claim for Gower rests upon his view, developed here in outline, that the Latin prose commentaries found in the Confessio Amantis, whether copied in the margin or into the column of text, represent Gower's adaptation of the commentary tradition by transforming its essential neutrality into interrogation. Such positioning allows Gower a form of authorial space throughout; his staged withdrawal from the poem's fiction--Amans then "John Gower," then John Gower who put pen and ink to parchment--is precisely the refusal necessary to establish authorial status. This occurs, Edwards points out, when Gower self-consciously emulates himself in his later works. On a lesser scale, the balade sequences, the minor Latin poems, and "In Praise of Peace," replicate the French-Latin-English "cursus" of his earlier, larger M), VC, and CA--the three big books, in other words, on which the head of Gower's tomb effigy rests, looking for all the world like a classical "auctor" (62-63). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Newsletter 32.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)
Vox Clamantis
In Praise of Peace

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