Gower and Mortality: The Ends of Storytelling.

Cooper, Helen.

Gower and Mortality: The Ends of Storytelling.

Cooper, Helen. "Gower and Mortality: The Ends of Storytelling." 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. 91-107.

Cooper's analysis begins with the famous surprise ending to the CA, where Amans is curtly informed that he is old and unfit for love: "in ending his story collection like this, Gower is being true to the deep roots of the form in ways we do not normally think about. Ideas of mortality, the end of life, and the ends of storytelling are closely linked. Ends can be spatial or temporal," or synonymous with the "final cause," the aim or purpose of an action (92). In the latter sense, the end or purpose of a story may be found in its ending, for example: "The Apocalypse is the necessary conclusion to the volume that opened with Creation" (94). Although this "end" may include a moral, Cooper's discussion--ranging expertly from "Gilgamesh" to Gower--explains how the universal "end" of storytelling is to hold our common mortality at bay, at least in fantasy, yet somehow accommodate the reality that even the longest of story collections--like every human life--must end, must die. The final story of the CA--while ending happily--in that same happy ending artfully affirms mortality as the end of storytelling: "The echo of St. Paul's mystical experience [at Apollonius of Tyre, CA VIII.1898-99] suggests that the story is moving even beyond the world of time . . . the audience . . . mortal like Gower . . . when his tales come to their end, can share in his hope of joy on the other side of apocalypse, the end of the world, the end of the story" (106-07). [LBB. Copyright. John Gower Society. JGN 36.2].


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis