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Amoral Gower

Language, Sex, and Politics

2003
Author:

Diane Watt

Amoral Gower

An innovative reading of John Gower’s work and an exciting new approach to medieval vernacular texts

Drawing on a combination of queer and feminist theory, ethical criticism, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual criticism, Diane Watt focuses on the language, sex, and politics in Gower’s writing. She demonstrates that Gower engaged in the sort of critical thinking more commonly associated with Chaucer and William Langland and contributes to modern debates about the ethics of criticism.

Cohen’s ecstatic eloquence, arising from his obvious passion for these discombobulated masses of selfhood seeking human agency, imbues the text with an intellectual urgency and snappy rhythm.

Arthuriana

“Moral Gower” he was called by friend and sometime rival Geoffrey Chaucer, and his “Confessio Amantis” has been viewed as an uncomplicated analysis of the universe, combining erotic narratives with ethical guidance and political commentary. Diane Watt offers the first sustained reading of John Gower’s “Confessio” to argue that this early vernacular text offers no real solutions to the ethical problems it raises—and in fact actively encourages perverse readings.

Drawing on a combination of queer and feminist theory, ethical criticism, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual criticism, Watt focuses on the language, sex, and politics in Gower’s writing. How, she asks, is Gower’s “Confessio” related to contemporary controversies over vernacular translation and debates about language politics? How is Gower’s treatment of rhetoric and language gendered and sexualized, and what bearing does this have on the ethical and political structure of the text? What is the relationship between the erotic, ethical, and political sections of “Confessio Amantis”? Watt demonstrates that Gower engaged in the sort of critical thinking more commonly associated with Chaucer and William Langland at the same time that she contributes to modern debates about the ethics of criticism.


Amoral Gower

Diane Watt is senior lecturer in English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Amoral Gower

Cohen’s ecstatic eloquence, arising from his obvious passion for these discombobulated masses of selfhood seeking human agency, imbues the text with an intellectual urgency and snappy rhythm.

Arthuriana

In this provocative and illuminating study, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen brings to bear the somantic identity theories of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatari on both the textual and literal corpus of medieval culture.

Medium Aevum

Indeed, this book is a welcome addition to Gower studies: it will certainly widen the scope of critical engagement with Gower’s work, spark lively debate, and encourage new lines of enquiry.

Medium Aevum

Watt presents many tantalizing readings of passages and narratives.

Speculum

Amoral Gower

Contents

Acknowledgments
A Note on the Texts
Preface

Introduction: Social Gower

Part I. Language

1. Gower’s Babel Tower: Language Choice and the Grammar of Sex
2. Writing Like a Man: Rhetoric and Genealogy

Part II. Sex

3. Transgressive Genders and Subversive Sexualities
4. Sexual Chaos and Sexual Sin

Part III. Politics

5. Tyranny, Reform, and Self-Government
6. Oedipus, Apollonius, and Richard II

Epilogue: Ethical Gower

Notes
Bibliography

Index