Gower Bibliography

Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381

Justice, Stephen. "Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381." Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994


Justice includes a very brief discussion of Gower's allegorical vision of the Peasants' Revolt in Book 1 of VC in this subtle and often fascinating study of the ways in which the rebellion was represented in the writings both of its participants and of those who either were or sympathized with its victims. Gower, of course, figures among the latter. Having appropriated for himself the voice of the "people" in composing what are now Books 2-7 of VC, Gower faced a popular uprising that both undermined his claim and threatened to absorb him. In order to protect both his project as poet and his carefully constructed political stance, he added the visio in Book 1, which is most notable for its submersion of the voice of the rebels in the braying and bellowing of the animals into which Gower imagines them transformed. "The rising forced Gower anxiously to disassociate his 'voice crying out' from the voices that cried out in June; by declaring himself a proxy for all those the rebels attacked and by prefacing the rest of the poem with his experience of rebel violence, he was able to assert that he did indeed speak in the common voice — of its victims" (p. 213). Justice interprets Chaucer's only reference to the rising as an even more artful evasion. Elaborating on a suggestion first made by Ian Bishop, he reads the chase scene in NPT as a direct parody of the visio in VC, accessible, however, only to the small group of readers in the poets' immediate circle who would recognize the subtlest taunting at Gower's expense. Chaucer's only direct engagement with the revolt thus shows him "dispelling and forgetting its threat in the minutely textual encoding of a coterie joke" (pp. 230-31). PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 16.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Vox Clamantis

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