The Sound of My Voice: Aurality and Credible Faith in the "Vox Clamantis."

Batkie, Stephanie.

The Sound of My Voice: Aurality and Credible Faith in the "Vox Clamantis."

Batkie, Stephanie. "The Sound of My Voice: Aurality and Credible Faith in the 'Vox Clamantis'." 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. 32-49.

Drawing on the theory of Jean-Luc Nancy, Batkie argues that "Gower's persistent use of audio-centric language and wordplay argues for a poetics of attention and openness . . . the openness and uncertainty of the ear" (37). While hearing is involuntary, listening is active, "temporal," and "open to the other" (32), as the listener must attend in expectation as a vocal utterance unfurls over time. Aurality calls into question the credibility of the speaker as well as the credulity of the listener; Gower values credulity as necessary to learning, even though it may lead to error (36). The VC reechoes with aural approaches, especially the homonymic punning uniquely suited to connect related concepts and allow, where appropriate, for multiple interpretations. Having recently co-translated the VC, Batkie explicates a series of sample passages: by playing on "sensus" (understanding) and "census" (accounting [of money]), Gower underscores how greedy prelates equate wealth with wisdom, while slighting the poor. The poet's riddle on his name has several meaningful solutions. The goddess Fortune--object of misplaced popular credulity--is described in grammatically ambiguous language well suited to convey her deceptive quality (37-44). For Gower, the attentive credulity of the listener is a necessary step to faith, to apprehending "the polysemy of the divine" (45). In new translation, the dual nature of the baby Jesus is harmonized in homonymic wordplay: "That he presses Mary's breast expresses true man; / A new star exposed expresses that he is God" (46-47, VC II.413-14). Although Gower's prophetic voice may sometimes sound in weeping, his vocal appeal to active faith is nonetheless resistant to despair (34, 48-49). [LBB. Copyright. John Gower Society. JGN 36.2].

Gower Subjects
Vox Clamantis
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Language and Word Studies