In his own lifetime and in the generations immediately following, John Gower’s reputation as one of England’s primary poets, second only to Chaucer himself, was secure and unquestioned. Gower wrote, and wrote competently, major poetic works in three languages: French, Latin, and English. With Chaucer, Gower was instrumental in adapting the polished French style to English poetry, and his preeminence is recognized by his successors from John Lydgate to Sir Philip Sidney.
Gower’s critical reputation began to decline sharply, however, in the seventeenth century, and it has never completely recovered. There were at least three major reasons for this decline. First, because of certain revisions in his works reflecting the political situation of the late fourteenth century, Gower has often been considered a political opportunist and sycophant. Second, it has been conjectured that another revision in his Confessio Amantis is evidence that Gower had a bitter and unresolved quarrel with his friend Chaucer. Third, Gower’s works have been considered to be rather dull. The first two of these charges have nothing whatever to do with the quality of Gower’s poetry and, in fact, are probably unfounded. The third charge is much more difficult to answer. It is certainly true that the Mirour de l’Omme and to some extent the Vox Clamantis are for the most part unpalatable to modern readers, though this is chiefly the result of a shift...
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Bakalian, Ellen Shaw. Aspects of Love in John Gowers’ “Confessio Amantis.” New York: Routledge, 2004. The four chapters of this work examine the struggle between nature and reason, marriage and the four wives, the forsaken women, and lovesickness.
Bullón-Fernández, María. Fathers and Daughters in Gower’s “Confessio Amantis.” Rochester, N.Y.: Brewer, 2000. This volume in the John Gower Society’s monograph series examines Gower’s works from a feminist perspective. Bibliographical references, index.
Echard, Siân, ed. A Companion to Gower. Rochester, N.Y.: D. S. Brewer, 2004. This work examines all aspects of Gower, presenting a chronology of criticism about him and examining his legacy.
Kendall, Elliot Richard. Lordship and Literature: John Gower and the Politics of the Great Household. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 2008. Looks at Gower’s political position and how it affected his poetry.
Nicholson, Peter. Love and Ethics in Gower’s “Confessio Amantis.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. Nicholson helps the modern reader understand the work and discusses it as both a poem and work of moral instruction.
Urban, Malte. Fragments: Past and Present in Chaucer and Gower. NewYork: Peter Lang 2009. The...
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