The Wheel of Language: Representing Speech in Middle English Poetry, 1377-1422 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012).

Author/Editor
Coley, David K.

Title
The Wheel of Language: Representing Speech in Middle English Poetry, 1377-1422 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012).

Published
Coley, David K. The Wheel of Language: Representing Speech in Middle English Poetry, 1377-1422 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012).

Review
For Coley, "representing the spoken word within a poetic text was always an act charged with political potential" (5). Following this line of thought, and after dispensing with Macaulay's three recensions in favor of a poem of two versions, one Ricardian, the other Lancastrian, he makes three main points, about the "Confessio Amantis" in his fifth chapter, and sketches a fourth: 1) "Whereas the Ricardian version balances its references to speech and writing in a manner consonant with the remainder of the poem, the Lancastrian version emphasizes the written word to the exclusion of spoken language, suggesting a conscious and rather startling deemphasis of speech" (156). 2) The reason for this, Coley argues, appears especially in Book 7, in the discussion of Rhetorique, which Gower wrote ca. 1389 in order to model what a commanding king ought to sound like for a Richard struggling with public and private doubts about his masculinity and precarious authority (esp. 163-80). 3) With the usurpation, the anxiety of the new king changes to overcoming his illegitimacy. The Lancastrian strategy being to claim that Henry IV "recovered" the kingdom from the near-disaster of Richard's reign, Gower in his post-1399 version emphasizes the memorious nature of writing and of books, which function to recover the past for the present and future (180-89). The sketched fourth point is the suggestion, indirectly offered by way of concluding the chapter, that Gower made his Lancastrian changes during and shortly following Henry's coup (190). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.1.]

Date
2012

Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Language and Word Studies
Style and Versification