Date of Award

Summer 1996

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Machan, Tim W.

Second Advisor

McCabe, John

Third Advisor

Zemler-Cizewski, Wanda


John Gower, writing in England during the fourteenth century, composed poetry in Latin, French, and English. His major Middle English work, the Confessio amantis (a work of over 30,000 lines, comprising eight books), is distinctive for including Latin verses and an accompanying Latin prose commentary. In many of the extant manuscripts of this work, both Latin texts are written as part of the work; in some manuscripts and in G. C. Macaulay's nineteenth-century edition, the commentary is included as a marginal gloss. Given the dynamic interaction of gloss and text typical of medieval literary practice and the central role of manuscript marginalia in modern understanding of medieval literary theory, John Gower's Confessio amantis deserves scholarly attention as an integrated whole. The Latin commentary and verses appear in most of the extant manuscripts suggesting that Gower intended them to be read as part of his work. This dissertation responds to provocative questions about the function of the Latin texts and their effects on the medieval sentence of the work. As Chaucer's contemporary, Gower has frequently suffered in comparisons of their work, while his distinctive use of the commentary tradition to authorize and enable his vernacular narrative voice has seen little critical consideration. Although most criticism of the English narrative poem acknowledges the Latin texts as Gower's work, they are seldom allowed to figure significantly in critical interpretations of the Confessio. Studies of specific tales in the work and of medieval genres like confession, dream vision, and exemplum generally privilege the Middle English narrative. The Latin texts have figured in some recent discussions of medieval literary theory and its relationship with the scholastic commentary tradition. These studies reveal the influence of that tradition on Gower's project and provide important support for my thesis. The interdependence of its Latin and vernacular texts, however, is not a prominent issue in the majority of studies of the Confessio amantis...



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