Gower’s Latin manuscripts

Authored by: Stephanie L. Batkie

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


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The first thing that should be said about the scholarship on Gower’s Latin manuscripts is that the field is ripe for contribution. As critical interest in material culture in the medieval period continues to grow, Gower’s works in Latin offer scholars a unique perspective on literary use and production at the end of the fourteenth century and in the beginning decades of the fifteenth. The number of manuscripts themselves (the Vox Clamantis is currently known to be extant in eleven manuscripts, the Cronica Tripertita in five, and the minor Latin poems in seventeen), as well as the commonalities between them, present patterns of scribal activity that allow for new understandings of the interaction between authors, scribes, and readers in the period. In addition, scholarly attention to manuscripts that compile poems together in ways that are frequently eclipsed by modern editorial conventions has already produced some provocative and productive readings. Be it through textual variation or manuscript arrangement, scholarship on the material lives of Gower’s Latin works offers an important perspective on the relationship between conditions of production and textual meaning. To date, work on these manuscripts has fallen into three broad categories: 1) catalogues of the various manuscripts and the works they contain, 2) technical investigation of the paleographical and codicological elements of each text, including patterns of scribal activity, and 3) readings of the poems that open new interpretative frameworks by considering the material contexts of the manuscripts themselves. The first two categories are currently the most prevalent, but this trend also seems to be shifting as recognition grows that knowledge of manuscript conditions is increasingly essential to our understanding of these texts.

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