Gower and Chaucer

Authored by: Brian Gastle

The Routledge Research Companion to John Gower

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472435804
eBook ISBN: 9781315613109
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043034

10.4324/9781315613109.ch22

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Abstract

Much of the history of scholarship on Gower is, to some extent (and perhaps unfortunately), the history of scholarship on Chaucer and Gower. That is, certainly since Macaulay’s edition, scholarship on Gower has tended to place Gower and his works vis-à-vis Chaucer and his works, and often important work on Gower appears in publications ostensibly focused on Chaucer. One need only turn to John Fisher’s important 1964 critical biography, John Gower, to see the primacy of this association: the subtitle of that biography is Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer. Fisher’s first sentence of his first chapter – an overview of the critical work on Gower up until that point – begins, “It has been the fate of John Gower to appear to succeeding ages almost constantly in the company of Geoffrey Chaucer,” and his final chapter is titled “Gower and Chaucer.” 1 While scholarship has indeed moved beyond the need to interrogate Gower’s work exclusively in light of Chaucer’s, that association still dominates much Gower criticism. While considering Gower in relation to Chaucer has been fruitful and empowering, it has also served sometimes to relegate Gower to a kind of second-class literary citizenship, interesting only insofar as his work relates to the more canonical and well-known work of Chaucer. The critical trends of the last few decades, however, have reexamined Gower’s traditionally subordinate role and have considered both the primacy and the autonomy of Gower’s works in the context of Chaucer’s.

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