Invention and Authorship in Medieval England.

Edwards, Robert R.

Invention and Authorship in Medieval England.

Edwards, Robert R. Invention and Authorship in Medieval England. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2017. ISBN 9780814213407.

Edwards sets out the terms of his inquiry early in his introduction: "The central argument I want to advance is that literary authorship develops in medieval England from discrete acts of invention--that is, from the discovery of expressive possibilities within and against established conventions of reading and writing. As this description implies, authorship is at once rhetorical and literary, historical and poetic" (xi). He amplifies this a bit later, noting that "we must look . . . to moments when writers claim authorship and locate themselves in relation to literary culture . . . . These moments are not simply exemplary but constitutive; they are the primary record of writers acting within historical contexts to inaugurate themselves as authors" (xxviii). Clearly, Gower figures large in Edwards' subsequent analysis of writers and their works that carry his points. For Edwards, Gower is "the poet who most overtly seeks to become an author in trilingual medieval England. Throughout his career, Gower employs the textual apparatus of biblical and classical commentary to frame his poems. He sees his major works--the "Mirour de l'Omme," "Vox Clamantis," and "Confessio Amantis"--as comprising a literary canon, and he generates paratexts to sustain the structure of his canon, even as the works themselves undergo development, revision, and contextualization. Authorship figures internally in the Mirour and the Vox through the voice of an exemplary self, preacher, and prophet. It is marked externally in Gower's glosses in the Confessio and his creation of the persona of a lover whose final dismissal from erotic service coincides with Gower's return to his earlier body of didactic writing. Gower is also the custodian of his reputation as an author. Here he has his precedents in [Walter] Map obliquely and Marie [de France] explicitly, while his contemporaries embed their authorship with their fictions. Moreover, after completing the Confessio, Gower creates a secondary and parallel canon of shorter poems, in three languages, that stands as a commentary and extension of his major poem" (xxix-xxx).
He devotes chapter 3 ("John Gower: Scriptor, Compositor, Auctor," 63-104) of the monograph to a work-by-work commentary on Gower's poems, major and minor, in all three languages. Again, Edwards sets out the terms of his larger argument very clearly: "In most reckonings, Gower figures as a poet who writes as a moralist" (65). However, as Edwards establishes in subsequent pages, for Gower the role of moralist was inseparable from--even dependent upon--his self-establishment as auctor: "Gower functions as a moralist precisely by being an author . . . . Gower's poetic career reflects a sustained and continually renewed performance of authorship in the service of ethical and political reflection. Authorship is the necessary condition of 'moral Gower'" (66). [RFY. Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 36.2


Gower Subjects
Background and General Criticism
Manuscripts and Textual Studies
Language and Word Studies
Mirour de l'Omme (Speculum Meditantis)
Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amatis