The Disorder of Operations: Illuminators, Scribes, and John Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Drimmer, Sonja.

The Disorder of Operations: Illuminators, Scribes, and John Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Drimmer, Sonja. "The Disorder of Operations: Illuminators, Scribes, and John Gower's 'Confessio Amantis'." Lias 44 (2017): 5-28. ISSN : 2033-4753. E-ISSN : 2033-5016.{}.

Drimmer focuses on the passage in Book I of CA in which Venus asks the narrator who he is. Most manuscripts, and all of the earliest ones, give the same reading for I.161: "I seid, 'A Caitif that lith hiere," as Macaulay prints it from F; but seven copies in Macaulay's group "1(c)" (which he labeled "unrevised" but which we now believe to be later than the group he called "revised") and the closely related MS B either omit the line entirely (in two cases, leaving a blank space but in the wrong position, following the rhyming line I.162 rather than before it) or present an alternative: "And I answerede wiĆ¾ drery [or 'ful myld'] chiere," or most remarkably, in two copies, identifying the narrator with the author, "Ma dame I sayde Iohn Gowere." Seven of these eight copies, Drimmer notes, figure among the fourteen manuscripts that contain miniatures showing the penitent narrator kneeling before Genius after I.202, in all but one case on the same page. The miniatures show the narrator either as an old man, consistent with the identity of the author, or as a youth, the persona that he adopts for the purposes of the confession, reflecting the same sort of indecision that might lie behind the alternative readings in I.161. Drimmer in fact argues provocatively that the various scribes' awareness of the image that would appear in most cases in the very next column may have been the reason for their hesitation to commit themselves to the reading in their exemplar. "Each scribe revised with the foreknowledge that whatever his revision was, an adjoining image that depicts the individual whose line of dialogue he inscribed would produce a moment of pictorial reckoning for which he would be held to account" (24). Instead of our viewing the illustrations as mere "translations" of the text, "these manuscripts demand that we resituate the position of the visual in our assessment of literary culture" (28). [PN. Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 37.1].


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies