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Chapitre D'ouvrage Année : 2019

Masculinity [in John Gower]


The very male-centredness of John Gower’s works makes it difficult to isolate masculinity as a distinct theme within them. The problem for the would-be analyst of the role of masculinity in Gower’s works is thus how to make visible what is simply assumed. This article takes an original approach to Gower’s work, one inspired by the German Begriffsgeschichte and the French school of textométrie, which focuses on lexicon and the use of words. An analysis of the use of ‘man’ confirms the male-centredness which a number of recent critics have identified in the Confessio Amantis, against an earlier tradition which emphasized Gower’s sympathy for women. Even without understanding his larger moral and literary project, Gower’s readers would have absorbed, without necessarily being able to say exactly why, that for him a ‘man’ was normally an adult male. However, the same is not so true when we move away from the specific referent of ‘man’ to consider the connotations of words which superficially share the same referent, such as ‘manly’ and ‘manhood’. In such cases, it can be shown that whilst Gower mobilizes many of the common uses of these words, he neglects others. This partiality, once revealed, makes it possible to demonstrate the selectivity of Gower’s presentation of manhood. This has consequences not only for understanding how his moral project was situated in contemporary society and culture, but also sheds light on a different kind of tendentiousness when he deals with actual political events. This opens up the broader question of how Gower’s works might legitimately be read, whether in terms of his general authorial project, or the possible counter-readings which persisted, despite his best efforts.


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hal-03037349 , version 1 (31-08-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03037349 , version 1


Christopher Fletcher. Masculinity [in John Gower]. Rigby, Stephen H.; Echard, Siân. Historians on John Gower, D.S. Brewer / Boydell and Brewer, pp.351-378, 2019, 9781843845379. ⟨hal-03037349⟩
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