Gower Bibliography

The Message of the Ruins: Reading Devastation.

Meindl, Robert J. "The Message of the Ruins: Reading Devastation." Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics and Semiotic Analysis 18 (2013), pp. 13-19. ISSN 1087-5557


Meindl is the English translator of Maria Wickert's "Studien zu John Gower" (1953), which, among other things, offered the first important critical analysis of Gower's VC. As he prepares a second, revised edition of his translation, Meindl offers here an essay that is part reminiscence (of his 1970 visit to Wickert's husband), part biography (of Wickert's career and the writing of her ground-breaking work), and part criticism, as he situates her work in the devastation and national self-analysis that followed Germany's defeat in World War II. The portion of Wickert's book that is still cited most often is her careful disentanglement of the different layers of composition of the VC. Meindl is more interested, however, in the reasons that she chose to write about the work and in the passages that she chose to single out for special attention, which stem, he argues, from Wickert's perception of the similarities between the setting in which Gower wrote and her own. "Like Gower, . . . Wickert had survived a time in which men had behaved like beasts, a nation that had long considered itself the heir of ancient Rome had been, like Troy, devastated, and, to use a metaphor often employed also by post-war German poets, a land and its institutions had been battered by a storm of epic proportions. Severe historical trauma led in the immediate post-war period to an investigation of the national psyche that insisted upon the acceptance of responsibility both collectively and individually" (13). Wickert, Meindl speculates, would have found Gower's blame of his nation's leaders, his weighing of individual responsibility for the calamities of his time, and his emphasis on penance and redemption particularly resonant with her own and her nation's experiences, and he credits her with "one small piece" (27) of her nation's recovery. [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 32.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies

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