A Study of the "Lust" and the "Lore" in "Confessio Amantis."

Wu, Xiaoling.

A Study of the "Lust" and the "Lore" in "Confessio Amantis."

Wu, Xiaoling. "A Study of the 'Lust' and the 'Lore' in 'Confessio Amantis'." Diss. Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 2019. Directed by Professor Hong Shen. (*N.B.: This dissertation is written in Chinese.)

In the lengthy narrative poem "Confessio Amantis" by John Gower (c.1330-1408), the poet of later medieval England, delight and education are termed as "lust" and "lore" respectively. The poem speaks of the "middel weie", meaning that the poet intends to keep a balance of lust and lore in the poem. This dissertation aims to demonstrate that the principle of the "lust" and "lore" balance is revealed throughout the poem. Using this as a foundation this study explores the authorship of the poet Gower in later medieval England and his CA. To date little significant attention has been paid to CA in Chinese academia. The issue of the "lust" and the "lore" in the poem has been in previous research mostly studied from the perspective of formal criticism. On the other hand, some scholars have approached the poem from the perspective of interest in an authorial intention dispute concerning whether the moral allegorical implications in the poem outweigh amoral narration in it. This study intends to take a more comprehensive view by focusing on its love narration, confessional narration, and advice narration, as well as its language and style, and adopts the method of poetic textual analysis in its historical context in order to carry out an examination of the "lust" and "lore" dichotomy in the poem. It is demonstrated that the principle of the "lust" and "lore" balance is followed throughout CA. In the love narration, the amoral "lust" and the rational "lore" reach a balance in terms of the effectiveness of expression with the assistance of the revelations of the lover's disguise. In the confessional narration, tales introduced as exempla are subject to the Seven Deadly Sins, but with the expressiveness of the tales, the "lust" of the tales and the "lore" of the Seven Deadly Sins reach a balance in terms of subjectivity; In the advice narration, the "lore" of the factually possible advice to the king is conveyed in the euphemistic way of delivering advice, by which the "lust" is revealed. The balance of the "lust" and "lore" is reached at the point of the difficulty in judging the practicality of the advice for a king as a genre of a Mirror for Princes. In addition, the language of the poem in the sense of its poetic form inclines to be in unified: this presents a formal and aesthetical "lust". The form of language and the "plain" style, which is enriched by the patriotic "lore", accommodate each other, consequently achieving a balance.
The dissertation demonstrates that the lust and lore in the poem not only reflects the style and meaning of the poem, but also reveals an encyclopaedic method of composition. The poet uses literary fictitiousness and imaginativeness to make the poem understandable and attractive, and he also makes the poem morally enlightening to satisfy social demands. While reaching the goal of conveying the themes, the principle of the lust and lore balance in the poem helps to extend the vision, to create an interesting reading experience, and to enrich nuances relating to the literariness and morality of the work. Since the poem interacts with other texts, works, and perception of reality in the course of its thematic expression, the encyclopaedic way of composing by combining fiction and real events are the reasons for the balance of lust and lore in the poem.
In conclusion, the dissertation indicates that the poet John Gower aims to convey a balance of "lust" and "lore". As a new style of work in his literary output, CA provides evidence for Gower's ability to write a secular work that also contains aesthetic qualities. The ethical and moral themes in the poem present critical views of the poet, reaffirming the "moral Gower" impression left by his previous works. The authorship of Gower as a poet is highlighted by the synthesis managed between the delightful "lust" and educating "lore" balance, so that Gower constantly keeps the narrative in an educating mode but not dull, and the tales catching but not misleading in conveying different themes. Delight and education are shared by other contemporary poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer, while the conservative balance of "lust" and "lore" by Gower is his major contribution to the literature of the period. [Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.1.]


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis