Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to Gower

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to Gower

Article excerpt

Siân Echard, A Companion to Gower (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004). 286 pp. ISBN 1-84384-000-6. £60.00.

John Gower's writing - or, at least, the Confessio Amantis - has now returned to critical vogue. We are now as likely to turn to Gower as to Chaucer for examples of ludic rhetoric, transgressive sexualities, manuscript politics, and a congenial place to test modern critical theories. The appearance of a 'companion' to Gower suggests a critical mass of critical interest, not least amongst university students who comprise the target audience of this kind of book; a companion is an opportunity to survey old arguments whilst extending new ones, and to give new readers the requisite information and vocabulary to tackle a controversial (and prolix, polyglot) poet such as Gower.

Echard's Companion will become a standard undergraduate reference work and is a welcome milestone in Gower studies. The book is alert to Gower's various geographical, linguistic, and textual contexts and includes excellent, clear essays on Gower's London English (by Jeremy J. Smith), Gower manuscripts (by Derek Pearsall), and Gower in print (by Echard). Helen Cooper's essay on Gower's afterlives (particularly in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and Pendes) vitally demonstrates Gower's foundational place in the English literary canon. Ardis Butterfield's provocative and stimulating essay on 'Confessio Amantis and the French tradition' sites Gower's poem in relation to texts like Le Roman de la Rose and Froissart's Joli Buisson de jonece; Butterfield is not interested only in describing Gower's sources but also in showing how there is a 'tricky process of doubling' (p. …

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