Chaucer, Gower, and the Affect of Invention.

Nowlin, Steele.

Chaucer, Gower, and the Affect of Invention.

Nowlin, Steele. Chaucer, Gower, and the Affect of Invention. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2016. ISBN 9780814213100.

"This book studies," Nowlin writes in his Introduction, (entitled "The Emergence of Invention") "the 'affect of invention,' a self-reflexive process that conceptualizes affect and invention in terms of each other and that understands invention as a process concurrent with the movements of affective emergence" (1). Clearly, the book doesn't lack for ambition. Two chapters on Gower ("'A Thing So Strange': Macrocosmic Emergence in the Confessio Amantis" [93-121] and "'The Chronique of the Fable': Transformative Poetry and the Chronicle Form in the Confessio Amantis" [122-50]) follow two on Chaucer, one considering the House of Fame, the other the Legend of Good Women. Nowlin sees Gower and Chaucer sharing basic poetic tenets: "The projects of both writers . . . actively work to understand the relationship between affective occurrence and inventional activity in a similar way, appealing not simply to scholastic rhetorical traditions or neoplatonic notions of poetic creation. The intersection of internal and external worlds, of cosmological concerns with the particular social, cultural, and political realities of lived experience that make both Chaucer's and Gower's writings so appealing to us today, constitutes the same conceptual realms in which they explore the relationship of affect and invention" (31). Nevertheless, for Nowlin there are differences between what the two poets considered the purpose of poetry, the most significant being the focus of each: Chaucer's gaze turned inward ("Chaucer's poems continually work to 'get behind' the discourses and emotions that structure experience" [32] , while Gower looked outward, attempting to write verse that would transform society ("Gower's poem works to move the potentially productive emergent qualities that characterize the affect of invention into the world outside of poetic fiction" [33]). By way of developing his argument, and in order to "show how this Gowerian formulation of invention as movement--as weie--operates thematically and metatextual in three significant and representative tales" (99): the "Tale of the Three Questions," "Constantine and Sylvester," and "Medea and Jason." Nowlin further provides a close reading of the Confessio Prologue and bits of the Book I, which in his view evince "how . . . emergent potential can be registered and generated through poetic invention" (98). In a final chapter ("From Ashes Ancient Come: Affective Intertextuality in Chaucer, Gower, and Shakespeare") Nowlin analyses Shakespeare's "Phoenix and the Turtle" with “The Parliament of Fowls,” and Pericles with Book VIII of the “Confessio Amantis.” He concludes that "'Phoenix' and Pericles . . . define their self-conscious interactions with Chaucer and Gower not only in terms of source material, medieval alterity, and authorial politics but also in ways that recognize and build on Chaucer's and Gower's self-conscious representations of inventional emergence" (210). [RFY. Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 36.2]


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Influence and Later Allusion