Gower's Ovids.

Galloway, Andrew.

Gower's Ovids.

Galloway, Andrew. "Gower's Ovids." In The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, vol. I: 800-1558, ed. Rita Copeland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 435-64. ISBN: 9780199587230; 9780199587230.

Galloway connects Gower to the English proto-humanists of the fifteenth century, albeit with qualifications, noting that "in many elements of substance he missed this take-off of the 'studia humanitatis' almost entirely" (436). Gower didn't know Plato, very little Statius or Virgil, and more--but not much--of Cicero. Ovid, however, is a different story: "Gower appropriated Ovid with unusual fidelity yet extraordinary freedom. At his most productive, he shows himself steeped in Ovid and up-to-date Ovidian commentators [i.e., the "Ovide Moralisé" and Bersuire's "Ovidius Moralizatus"] to a degree hard to parallel before the Renaissance, and rare thereafter" (438). Galloway tracks the trajectory of Gower's recourses to Ovid from the Ovidless MO to heavy reliance in the VC and a few of the balades to "a flowering of Ovidiana in the 'Confessio'," followed by "almost no mention in his final political poetry" (439). He sees this interest in Ovid driven by Gower's "legendary interest in ethics and 'morality'," although he came to it via "Ovidian materials"--i.e., "there is clear textual evidence that Gower's elaborations and framing were stimulated by the moralized, redacted, and summarized medieval Ovids he consulted" (439). The remainder of Galloway's essay specifically addresses, work by work, examples of Ovidian presence. He is particularly informative about Gower's uses of Bersuire (448-53). As Galloway sums it up, "The results show Gower responsible for a major transition in the intellectual as well as poetic uses of Ovid, a departure from using Ovid simply as a matrix for Christian allegory. Along with Ovid himself, the Ovidian commentators lead Gower not only into his best poetry, but also into his fullest participation in moral, social, literary, and political dialogue, though not always with the interlocutors and topics we might expect" (439). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.1.]


Gower Subjects
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations