The Materiality of Cognition in Reading, Staging, and Regulation of Brain and Heart Activities in Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Author/Editor
Peck, Russell.

Title
The Materiality of Cognition in Reading, Staging, and Regulation of Brain and Heart Activities in Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Published
Peck, Russell. "The Materiality of Cognition in Reading, Staging, and Regulation of Brain and Heart Activities in Gower's 'Confessio Amantis.'" In Russell A. Peck and R. F. Yeager, eds. John Gower: Others and the Self. Publications of the John Gower Society XI (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2017) pp. 7-31.

Review
The essay begins by reconstructing the medieval view of neuroanatomy and cognition as inherited from Galen and illustrated in medieval and early modern diagrams, four of which are reproduced in the text. In medieval cognitive theory, the brain has three ventricles: first, the "imaginatio" (or "fantasia") forms an image based on input from the eye. Second, the "imaginativa" uses images from the first cell to create a "performative materialization," that is, a "staging" of multiple mental scenarios along with a sense of their meaning--this lively process is called "multiplication of species." The third is the storehouse of memory which also contains the "membrorum motiva," a link to intention and bodily motion (8-12). Other diagrams connect the brain to the heart (with music having the ability to bypass the brain) and provide for a "custos" (force of habit) that regulates cognition (13-17). All of these concepts are key to understanding the CA, where the sense of sight--both for good and ill--is the chief route of access to heart and mind and the entryway for love (17-18). While Amans obsessively stokes his "imaginative" with remembered images of the lady (19-20), Nectanabus generates visual stimuli to manipulate the performative faculties of Olympias, his target for seduction (21). Acting directly on the heart, music promotes peace and awakens Apollonius from despair (24-25), while a darkly parallel progress--from eye to "fantasia" to heart to members--brings on a disastrous coupling and death for Canace at the hands of her heartless father (25-29). In the "Tale of Three Questions," however, "all three ventricles are at peace with each other and their audience, through Peronelle's careful staging and balanced regulation" (31). [LBB. Copyright. John Gower Society. JGN 36.2].

Date
2017

Gower Subjects
Background and General Criticism
Confessio Amantis