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 ISSN 0743-7226


Edwards argues that "modern scholarship has focused on the historical foundations of medieval authorship in exegesis and pedagogy," both of which "show how texts and authors were framed externally within a dynamic literary culture in the high and late Middle Ages. Authorship functioned internally as well, as a condition of literary meaning that complements the conditions of intelligibility within Latin and vernacular literary systems. To understand the internal dynamic of authorship, we need to supplement exegesis and pedagogy with an understanding of imitation and resistance. Imitation traditionally forms character and style from canonical models, and it provides a means to compose equivalents to canonical models by reproducing, rewriting, and reimagining them. At the same time, it generates an impossible demand for authorship--an original copy that remains subordinate to its source. For this reason, resistance emerges as the necessary correlate of imitation. In late-medieval England, John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer, poets recognized as authors by their contemporaries and by each other, demonstrate the productive reciprocity of imitation and resistance. Gower builds an edifice of authorship around his works and poetic career yet writes himself out of his most ambitious literary project at the end of the "Confessio Amantis" and then refuses his own dismissal in a sequence of minor works. Chaucer punctuates his repeated gestures toward authorship with equally insistent denials and omissions. These occasions for refusing authorship are by no means identical, but they point toward and alternative history of authorship that recognizes its contingency and continual renegotiation." [RRE/RFY. Copyright John Gower Society eJGN 34.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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