Gower Bibliography

Rethinking Chaucer's 'Legend of Good Women'

Collette, Carolyn P. "Rethinking Chaucer's 'Legend of Good Women'." Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press/Boydell and Brewer, 2014 ISBN 9781903153499

Review

The central contention of Collette's study is that Chaucer's work is best viewed as produced "in a moment of literary and cultural hybridity, when . . . the courtly conventions of love poetry were consciously melded with a broader definition of love's 'thousand formes.' . . . This notion of love is closely linked to what . . . English termed common profit in late fourteenth-century vernacular literature. As Gower's 'Confessio Amantis' demonstrates, love becomes a trope through which to examine right action, and charity becomes a template for creating a more just polity." (1) She cites a humanist impulse underlying this widening of love's scope, taking account of Italian predecessors (Boccaccio, Petrarch), French fellow-travellers (Machaut and Christine de Pizan), but also reflecting a native strain present in the court of Edward III, led by Richard de Bury, and a circle including Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, Richard FitzRalph and Robert Holcot. Her study presents "a comparative reading of these authors' work . . . how all adapt and shape well-known stories for their own cultural purposes." (5) The section on Gower ("John Gower: The Personal and the Political" 59-68) includes detailed discussion of those tales of women also told by Chaucer in 'Legend of Good Women': Pyramus and Thisbe, Medea, Dido, Ariadne, Philomela, and Lucrece. Her findings take on a general character, as follows: "The structure of the 'Confessio Amantis' is overtly didactic, the alignment between exemplar and moral point always articulated. Gower's examples, however, are often expressed in rich poetry, while Chaucer chooses an opposite course: the naked text, brief narratives which pare down the stories so that what details and elements of plot remain achieve significance for the reader without interpretive directives from the author." (61)] [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 33.2.]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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