On the Edge: Chaucer and Gower's Queer Glosses.

Magnani, Roberta, and Diane Watt.

On the Edge: Chaucer and Gower's Queer Glosses.

Magnani, Roberta, and Diane Watt. "On the Edge: Chaucer and Gower's Queer Glosses." postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies 9 (2018), 269-88.

Magnani and Watt revisit the supposed rivalry between Gower and Chaucer, evidenced in the introduction to Chaucer's "Man of Law's Tale" and Gower's "Tale of Canace and Machaire" and "Tale of Apollonius of Tyre," to focus on what reading these texts in conversation can tell us about the relationships between authority and interpretation. They argue, "Gower, Chaucer, and indeed some of their readers (as revealed through the Latin glossing of Gower's and Chaucer's vernacular texts) are acutely aware of the risks, and sometimes the pleasures, of misprision or queer (mis-) interpretation" (270). Magnani and Watt suggest that "masculine and patrilineal" are "inadequate interpretive frameworks" for discussing the deviant sexuality in Chaucer's and Gower's tales, due to "the presence of the queer" (271). They examine MS Fairfax 3 in particular, claiming that a "queer gap" exists between "what 'is not' said" and "what 'is' said" in the "Tale of Constance" (273; emphasis original). Magnani and Watt identify gender inconsistencies arising between the Middle English tale and the Latin gloss, such as the Latin personification “invidia” (feminine) and the examples of Envy in Middle English that include both men and women. These "queer gaps . . . punctuate a narrative very much concerned with ideals and distortions of masculinity and femininity, and with the fluidity, rather than fixity, of hermeneutics" (274). Magnani and Watt also demonstrate the differences between manuscripts to emphasize the "queer fissure" of female agency opened in MS Fairfax 3 (which includes glosses) as opposed to MS Bodley 902 (which does not include glosses), adding that these "queer fissures" allow polyvalent rather than fixed meanings for Constance's story (279). After discussing Chaucer's versions of this tale, Magnani and Watt conclude, "the queer disjunctions between the Latin glosses and the vernacular text indicate an unstable hermeneutics in which meaning is not constant" (285). [JS. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.2.]


Gower Subjects
Manuscripts and Textual Studies
Confessio Amantis
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Biography of Gower