Printing Power: Selling Lydgate, Gower, and Chaucer.

Higl, Andrew.

Printing Power: Selling Lydgate, Gower, and Chaucer.

Higl, Andrew. "Printing Power: Selling Lydgate, Gower, and Chaucer." Essays in Medieval Studies 23 (2006): 57-77. ISSN 1043-2213.

Higl is concerned to demonstrate that the preponderance of printed Chaucer works over those of Lydgate and Gower, usually perceived as by modern scholars as evidence of their relative popularity, was in fact caused primarily by early printers' assessments of their marketability. Because Chaucer had fewer ideological markers than either Gower or Lydgate, and wrote a greater number of middling-length poems that could be added to other works to create "new, improved" collections, "the canon of Chaucer and the idea of Chaucer himself proved malleable--not an uncommon quality of medieval works but something that marks Chaucer even in the early modern period. Chaucer was flexible, and he could be manipulated in order to match the 'sentence' of the nation and proved 'solaas' for consumers" (65). Lydgate and Gower were harder for profit-seeking printers to "manipulate"--to some degree because after Henry VIII broke with Rome they were identified with an out-of-fashion religiosity, and pre-humanistic views. Higl's major claim, however, is that Gower's work was more troublesome still for printers because he "simply did not have a varied corpus of English that could be published . . . . Language is the key, and for Gower, his command of three languages--Latin, French, and English--would prove to cause his downfall in the English tradition" (66). "The market forces at work in the sixteenth century would have made such an undertaking as publishing the works of Gower financially ridiculous" (67). Ultimately, then, for Higl, "though early moderns often placed Gower's name next to Chaucer's when tracing the English tradition, the name Gower coupled with his work could not effectively sell the importance of English since a majority of his corpus was in languages other than English" (68). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 37.2.]


Gower Subjects
Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Language and Word Studies