Amoral Gower: Language, Sex, and Politics by Diane Watt

By Diane Watt

"Moral Gower" he used to be known as through pal and someday rival Geoffrey Chaucer, and his Confessio Amantis has been seen as an easy research of the universe, combining erotic narratives with moral advice and political statement. Diane Watt deals the 1st sustained examining of John Gower's Confessio to argue that this early vernacular textual content bargains no genuine suggestions to the moral difficulties it raises-and in reality actively encourages "perverse" readings. Drawing on a mixture of queer and feminist thought, moral feedback, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual feedback, Watt makes a speciality of the language, intercourse, and politics in Gower's writing. How, she asks, is Gower's Confessio concerning modern controversies over vernacular translation and debates approximately language politics? How is Gower's therapy of rhetoric and language gendered and sexualized, and what bearing does this have at the moral and political constitution of the textual content? what's the courting among the erotic, moral, and political sections of Confessio Amantis? Watt demonstrates that Gower engaged within the type of severe considering most of the time linked to Chaucer and William Langland while that she contributes to trendy debates in regards to the ethics of feedback. Diane Watt is senior lecturer in English on the college of Wales, Aberystwyth.

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Such a reader could be described as the metaphorical rapist of both poem and poet. It is as if Gower were announcing at the start of the poem that despite its lofty themes, neither he nor it is inviolate. Gower conjures up the specter of an abusive and potentially sodomitical relationship between reader and text/author, only to dismiss it immediately. 23 24 G o w e r’ s B a b e l T o w e r The threat of the perverse reading may be repressed but Gower cannot escape its return. It is exactly this sort of creative yet crude and disruptive “misreading” that will be the focus of my analysis in the next section of this chapter, in which I examine some examples of the troubled sexual politics of grammatical gender in Gower’s English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin writings.

1407) provides one context for Gower’s writing. 26 Gower was writing before the Oxford translation debate. 28 In his Prologue and elsewhere, he claims that his text serves a didactic function (instructing the king and his advisers, the clergy, and the commons). 3108–09). Gower seems concerned to undercut the high seriousness of his vernacular work. 29 Yet within the frame narrative, this blurring of roles takes on some ludic qualities with Genius playing clergy to Amans’s layman. 30 29 30 G o w e r’ s B a b e l T o w e r Gower’s caution in this respect can be explained in part by his religious and political allegiances.

7 In the very next line, Gower attempts to banish, but simultaneously evokes, the evil or perverse reader (“Far hence be he who reads my verses ill”). 9 The materials and matter of the text are seen as passive and feminine, while the author, because his role is viewed as active in that he generates the text and gives it form, is gendered masculine. 10 Is it an active or a passive one? The penis in the riddle has a symbolic rather than a physiological significance: it represents the potency to interpret independently of the poet’s aims.

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