Gowerian Laughter

Yeager, R.F

Gowerian Laughter

Yeager, R.F. "Gowerian Laughter." In ." Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Medieval English Literature: The Influence of Derek Brewer. Ed. Brewer, Charlotte and Windeatt, Barry. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013, pp. 144-53. ISBN 9781843843542

Yeager examines not the humor that might provoke the reader's laughter in Gower's poems but rather the instances in which the poet refers directly to laughter, in CA and MO. Many of these are merely hypothetical, and these often occur in formulaic expressions (e.g. "lawhe and pleie") or in patterns of conventional rhyme. In the instances in which characters are actually depicted laughing (Nectanabus in CA 6.2026-34, Zoroaster at his birth in 6.2370-76, and the majority of instances in which allegorical figures are described as laughing in MO), the laughter is either malicious, hollow (in that someone else gets to laugh last), or both. There are no examples of the laughter of pure joy as there are in Chaucer. All of the best examples of humorous laughter in Chaucer are attributed to women, and among the more hypothetical examples in Gower, there are two (in 5.2473-75 and 8.848-55) in which Gower too imagines a laughter "devoid of irony" (152), also only with reference to women. And though there is nothing in Gower precisely like Troilus's laugh at the world at the end of T&C, Troilus reflects Gower's, not Chaucer's, "deeper sense of the nature and value of laughter in narrative and points us to Gower's probably source," in Psalms 2:1-4 (153).[PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 32.2]


Gower Subjects
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l'Omme (Speculum Meditantis)