Gower Bibliography

Excerpting Gower: Exemplary Reading in New Haven, Takamiya MS 32

Stadolnik, Joseph. "Excerpting Gower: Exemplary Reading in New Haven, Takamiya MS 32." South Atlantic Review 79.3-4 (2015), pp. 36-51. ISSN 0277-335X


Derek Pearsall coined the image of the CA as a "dreadnought" poem, a massive battleship girded with the iron cladding of Latin marginalia. Stadolnik points out that despite the Confessio's fearsome unity in the London manuscripts that define the poem's identity, a number of excerpted versions survive from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries whose purposes may not be intellectual power projection in so overwhelming a form. Kate Harris and Tony Edwards have both trod this ground, noting that such excerpts were probably much more frequent than the survivors indicate (Harris) and that the removal of the tales from their massive penitential framework can have subversive effects (Edwards). Takamiya MS 32 is a carefully-designed and decorated compilation opening with five tales from the CA ("Three Questions," "Procne, Philomela, and Tereus," "Nectabanabus," "Perseus and Demetrius," and "Adrian and Bardus"). These tales are followed by the unique witness for the allegorical dialogue "Speculum Misericordie" and a complete text of the "Canterbury Tales" that has earned this manuscript its more familiar appellation as "the Delamere Chaucer." Closing the volume is a further CA excerpt that combines "Nebuchadnezzar's Dream" (including its Latin headverse) with "Nebuchadnezzar's Punishments." One consequence of this excerpting is the complete removal of moralizing structures imposed in the CA by the Latin marginalia and the commentary of Genius himself in the main text. The scribe in Takamiya 32 goes further by rewriting the final couplet of "Tereus" to replace its moral sting with a bland prayer that things go well for everybody, a move other excerpters such as the Findern manuscript (Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.6) do not make. An even more elaborate disarming of moral authority occurs in a rewritten prologue and (to a lesser extent) expanded ending for "Demetrius and Perseus," reframing the tale's worth in the safe terms of an antiquarian response to romance. The scribe of Takamiya 32 also rewrites links in the "Canterbury Tales," but to a different end: highlighting the tales to accentuate the pilgrimage frame. Although this complete text of Chaucer's poem has always outweighed the presence of the CA extracts, nonetheless these Gower extracts literally (and, by all indications from its production, intentionally) frame the complete texts here. [JF. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 35.1.]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Manuscripts and Textual Studies
Confessio Amantis

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