Gower Bibliography

Dialogues of Love and Government: A Study of the Erotic Dialogue Form in Some Texts from the Courtly Love Tradition.

Spencer, Alice. "Dialogues of Love and Government: A Study of the Erotic Dialogue Form in Some Texts from the Courtly Love Tradition." Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2007 ISBN 9781847181855

Review

Spencer's treatment of Gower's poetry appears as "Part III" of her fourth chapter in a book-length study which she describes as an attempt "to explain the recurrent use of the Boethian dialogue model in literature concerned with courtly love." She argues that she will "cover new ground on two accounts: first, in considering the use of Boethius as a writer of philosophical dialogues rather than of dream visions and, secondly, in exploring the relationship between dialogue and erotic love and its political implications" (1). Spencer reads the CA as mightily influenced by Froissart's "Joli Buisson de Jonece," in its "use of the 'senex amans' motif and in the denouement . . . which, like Froissart's constitutes a rejection of the literary genre to which the work ostensibly belongs." Gower "also shares Froissart's thematic focus on the internal division of the self and the consequent breaking up of the poetic voice . . . . However . . . Gower's resolution to these problems differs significantly from Froissart's, presenting a far more horizontally inclined, inclusive and philiac vision of caritas and politics" (172-73). "For Gower, the path to truth and enlightenment seems to lie in a descent into detailed examination of the subjective self in its fallen state and the world around it rather that an immediate ascent beyond particular worldly concerns to monologic political preaching or religious contemplation" (173). Spencer's is a rambling study, somewhat over-ambitious in its apparent attempt to encompass the sum of themes and treatments in the CA. The result is replete with turns and reachings-out in multiple directions which do not always interconnect. Most of her conclusions are, perhaps, encapsulated in the following: "Worldly readers and writers, like worldly kings, aspire towards the divine harmony of Arion. However, it is in the nature of their earthly condition that any order they seek to impose upon the diverse, fallen world will inevitably be provisional and susceptible to renewed division . . . . Gower's 'Confessio' resembles Froissart's 'Le Joli Buisson de Jonece' in that it begins as a secular dialogue on 'cupiditas' and ends with a transition to 'caritas.' However, while Froissart's 'Joli Buisson' retains and indeed intensifies the exclusivity innate in the courtly love mode by transfiguring the love of the mortal particular one into the contemplation of the divine One, Gower's 'Confessio' seeks to pass from a blinkered, cupidinous world vision in to a vision of the One in the many and the many in the One . . . . The former approach could be associated with the 'vita contemplativa,' the latter with the vita active. The task of the 'active,' in some senses political writer, like that of the earthly king, is to attain to a universal, harmonious and ordered vision of the world and the common principles which tie its multiple elements together. The writer must seek to overcome his or her own internal divisions, and the subjectivity which divides them from others. Gower's fictional portrayal of his own internal division and cupidity dramatizes the difficulty of attaining to such a unity of self. At the end of the 'Confessio,' when Venus asks Amans' name, he responds, 'John Gower.' It is at this point that the wise, authoritative voice of the Prologue (which clearly belongs to the author of the 'Vox Clamantis') and the naïf limited protagonist of the dialogue finally come together. However . . . Gower proceeds to illustrate, through the Genius-Amans dialogue, just how difficult it is to attain to such perfection and unity. He ends the poem with a note of challenge to his hypocrite 'lecteur' to re-form and re-order the diverse and recalcitrant profusion of narratives left before us in such a way as to avoid falling into the various traps encountered by Genius and Amans" (200-201). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 33.2.]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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