Gower Bibliography

Gower and the Daughters of Eve

Glaeske, Keith. "Gower and the Daughters of Eve." SELIM: Journal of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature 19 (2014), pp. 161-74. ISSN 1132-631X


Although the bible lists only sons as offspring of Adam and Eve, it also mentions "other progeny," number unspecified. In Book VIII of the CA, Gower names two daughters of Eve as Calmana and Delbora "as the sister-wives of Cain and Abel, respectively." Glaeske examines "Gower's use of Calmana and Delbora within the wider contexts of Middle English literature and medieval literature" in order to show "which other traditions concerning the daughters of Eve were known by a Middle English audience, where Gower accords with these traditions, and where he contradicts them, and might have used other traditions." Glaeske traces the variants of the Eve's daughters narratives through diverse sources, including Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Old Church Slavonic, as well as the Latin "Vita Adae et Evae," Pseudo-Philo's "Biblical Antiquities," "The Book of Jubilees," "The Cave of Treasures," "The Combat of Adam and Eve with Satan," and "The Book of the Bee." Among Middle English texts including mention of the Adamic offspring, Glaeske reports on the "Middle English Genesis and Exodus," "The Historye of the Patriarks," "The Middle English Paraphrase of the Old Testament," three prose versions of the "Life of Adam and Eve," a Middle English version of the stanzaic "Canticum de Creatione," the "incomplete Auckinleck Couplets," and the "Cursor Mundi." Of these, "besides the 'Confessio Amantis,' the only Middle English texts to name Calmana and Delbora as the daughters of Eve are 'The Historye of the Patriarks' and the 'Cursor Mundi'" (164). There are differences even in these accounts: "'The Historye,' however, does not tell us which sister married with brother; instead, this is noted by 'Cursor Mundi' and 'Confessio Amantis'" (165). "Outside of vernacular versions of the Latin 'Vita Adae et Evae,' the names Calmana and Delbora are recorded within several medieval chronicles, both from the Continent and from England. Middle High German metrical chronicles record both names, as does the 'Weltchronik' of Heinrich von München and the prose chronicle of Jean de Preis. Among the Middle English chronicles their names appear both in the 'Polychronicon' of Ranulph Higden and the English translation made by John Trevisa, as well as the 'Chronica majora' of Matthew of Paris and the 'Eulogium historiarum.' Many of these texts cite their source as Methodius, and Trevisa translated a tract ascribed to him, which does mention the two sisters, but all of these chronicles are largely indebted to the late twelfth-century 'Historia Scholastica' of Peter Comestor, and it is there where we find the earliest mention of Calmana and Delbora as the twin sisters of Cain and Abel" (169). Glaeske concludes that 1) "Gower's use of Calmana and Delbora as the daughters of Eve seems to derive either directly from the 'Historia scholastica' of Peter Comestor, or indirectly from other Middle English texts that use it as source material. Gower does not appear to have known any of the texts of the secondary Adam literature" (169); 2) "Gower's designation of Delbora as the inventor of weaving remains puzzling" (170); 3) "Since Gower appears not to have derived this designation [i.e., weaving] from contemporary Middle English texts, it suggests that he knew other traditions concerning the two sisters, possibly from other insular texts" (170). [RFY. Copyright The John Gower Society. eJGN 34.1]

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Published in 2014 for 2012.
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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