Gender and Sexuality in 'Confessio Amantis'

Watt, Diane

Gender and Sexuality in 'Confessio Amantis'

Watt, Diane. "Gender and Sexuality in 'Confessio Amantis'." In A Companion to Gower. Ed. Echard, Siân. Cambridge: Brewer, 2004, pp. 197-213.

Discusses Gower's treatment of his female characters, focusing on three tales: "Canace and Machaire," in which, Watt argues, contrary to most published commentary, the children are held responsible for their incestuous relationship and, at least at the beginning, the blame is equally shared between them; "Iphis and Iante," in which the two girls suffer no blame for their desire for one another or for Iphis's cross-dressing before Iphis is transformed into a man; and "Calistona," in which Gower's alterations subtly transform the rape into a seduction for which the woman herself can be held at least in part responsible. Watt reaches two important conclusions: one, "going against the tide of recent gender criticism," as she herself proclaims, that Gower's main concern is ethical, and that "when a writer like Gower writes about women or men, about homosexual or heterosexual desires, or about transvestism or transsexuality, he (or she) is not necessarily discussing something else" (211). And second (echoing an argument also recently made by Ellen Shaw Bakalian), that "the central ethical message of the Confessio Amantis as a whole is that the responsibility for sin or error falls firmly on the individual who commits it, male or female" (213). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 24.1]


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis