'How love and I togedre met': Gower, Amans and the Lessons of Venus in the 'Confessio Amantis'.

Rayner, Samantha J

'How love and I togedre met': Gower, Amans and the Lessons of Venus in the 'Confessio Amantis'.

Rayner, Samantha J. "'How love and I togedre met': Gower, Amans and the Lessons of Venus in the 'Confessio Amantis'." In Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain. Ed. Hopkins, Amanda, and Rouse, Robert Allen, and Rushton, Cory. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014, pp. 69-83. ISBN 9781843843795

Rayner opens her study with an unusually apt précis: "The 'Confessio Amantis' connects directly and frankly through the persona of Amans with the tensions age brings to lust and love. Venus may tell Amans that 'Loves lust and lockes hore/ In chamber acorden neveremore,' but the 'Confessio' shows us Gower understood the complexities of impulse and behaviour that age and love created. In this essay I shall concentrate on how these complexities are brought out through the exchange between Amans and Genius, as well as Amans and Venus, showing how the 'Confessio' exploits conventions of courtly and classical literature to examine an essentially human experience with humour, wit and perspicacity" (69). Rayner's embrace of disparate issues is broad, and her progress toward a conclusion ranges widely. At the center of her concerns, however, is the single idea that readers should take Amans' erotic passion entirely seriously and at face value--as something that happens in nature, perhaps did to Gower himself. Ultimately she rejects readers (Watt, Nicholson, Wetherbee) who "have seen the end of the 'Confessio' as full of a sense of defeat." (82) Instead, Rayner finds in the poem's finish "an acceptance of a new view of life, of new priorities and new explorations, not a portrait of a man defeated, or even of a man saying that love has been an illusion. Unlike many of the sources, Amans is not part of an elaborate dream sequence: the fact that he is revealed to be Gower emphasizes the attempt to make his experiences more real, more relevant to the audience receiving them. Amans becomes Gower so that the poem becomes a very potent and ultimately optimistic experience. Age will come to all, just as love will, but there are positives. There is no delusion: love happens to old people--to all people" (82-83). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 33.2.]


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis