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Literary Genealogy, Virile Rhetoric, and John Gower's Confessio Amantis.

In one of the most well-known passages of Inferno, Dante unexpectedly encounters the Florentine magistrate, rhetorician and poet, Brunetto Latini, amongst the sodomites in the innermost ring of the seventh circle of Hell. The poignancy of this episode, in which Dante greets his former teacher, suggests a degree of sympathy with the sinner on the part of the narrator which the modern reader might well not anticipate:
   E io, quando il suo braccio a me distese,
   ficcai gli occhi per lo cotto aspetto
   si, che il viso abbruciato non difese
   la conoscenza sua al mio intelletto;
   e chinando la mia a la sua faccia
   risposi: "Siete voi qui, Ser Brunetto!"

   I, when to me he stretched his arm out, brought
   my gaze to rest so squarely on his baked
   appearance, that his scorched face stayed me not
   from recognizing him with my intellect;
   and "You here, Ser Brunetto!" stooping down
   my face to his, I said: and my heart ached.(1)

In their ensuing conversation, Dante explains to Latini that he is overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude as he remembers "`quando nel mondo, ad ora ad ora, / m'insegnavate come l'uom s'eterna'" (when in the world you taught me early and late / the art by which man grows eternal), in other words, his instruction in the art of poetry.(2)

The intimacy of the exchange between the two men, the absence of censorious condemnation of the sinner on the part of Dante, has led a number of scholars to question the exact nature of Latini's error and to try to exonerate him from the taint of homosexuality.(3) Certainly there is reason to think that Latini's transgression may be more complex than it appears at first. Terms like sodomy and sodomite are notorious for their instability and therefore had the potential to be used in quite unspecific ways in the Middle Ages.(4) Although Dante classifies sodomy as a species of violence against God (placing it alongside blasphemy and usury),(5) it may be no coincidence that Latini's companions in suffering are all notable literati, scholars for whom the love of learning was of paramount importance. A causal connection between vanity and idolatry and both female and male homosexuality was well established in the Middle Ages and can be traced back to the teachings of St. Paul (Romans 1.21-27).(6) It is this context which may help to explain Latini's final prayer, when he entreats Dante to:
   sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro
   nel qual io vivo ancora; e piu non cheggio.

   take good care of my Treasure, for in that
   I still live, and no more I ask of thee.(7)

Latini's concern for the survival of his book and seeming disregard for the state of his own soul--his lack of penitence--can be seen as evidence of pride and self-adulation. As Eugene Vance explains, "as the willing emblem of the classical rhetoricians, Brunetto is enacting all the vices for which rhetoricians since Plato had been censured--love of appearances, love of money, opportunism, and so on--vices that persist in Brunetto even though he is now suffering for them in hell."(8) Latini's ambition reveals him to be at least equally guilty of narcissistic self-love as he is of "spregiando natura" [scorning Nature].(9) Moreover, Dante represents him as being concerned more with artistic creativity than with procreation, with literary patrilineage rather than human genealogy.(10)

To some extent this canto as a whole can be read as a variation of the "outdoing topos,"(11) or of what Harold Bloom famously termed "the anxiety of influence"(12) or literary competitiveness: Latini predicts the literary success of the man he refers to as his son, "Se tu segui tua stella, / non puoi fallire a glorioso porto" [An thou pursue thy star, / thou canst not fail to reach the glorious port],(13) while Dante ensures that his predecessor--safely trapped in eternal motion in hell--cannot challenge what is now his, Dante's, position of superiority. Yet Dante's benevolent, if condescending, appreciation of the favour formerly shown him by his master may well be misplaced because he has been implicated by Latini as his literary (and therefore improper) heir and because in so far as he shares Latini's desire for literary immortality, it would appear that he has himself become corrupted by his sin. Certainly, Dante's response to Latini's flattery reveals him to be more concerned with his own future status, his metaphorical birthright, than with the survival of his master's text: "Cio che narrate di mio corso, scrivo / e serbolo a chiosar, con altro testo, / a donna che sapra, se a lei arrivo." [What you narrate of how my steps shall fare / I write, and keep with other texts to gloze, / by a wise lady, if I attain her.](14) But however one interprets Latini's error and his prayer, and Dante's response to them, it is evident that the latter's vivid description of Latini's punishment ensured that his name would indeed continue to be remembered, if not for the reasons that Latini had wished.

Brunetto Latini's book, Li Livres dou Tresor, written between 1260 and 1266, was not lost and otherwise forgotten.(15) One of those writers on whom it had a major impact was John Gower. The extent of Gower's familiarity with Dante's Commedia is unknown, and Gower does not at any point mention either Latini's crime or his compendium. He drew extensively on the Tresor in Book 7 of his major English work, Confessio Amantis, in which there occurs what has been identified as the first discussion of rhetoric in English (7. 1507-1640).(16) This, the penultimate book of Confessio, interrupts the series of narratives structured around the lover's confession and his priest's exposition of the seven deadly sins. Exceptionally, it is not written "in the registre / Of Venus" (7. 19-20), but contains instead, as Alastair Minnis notes "a veritable `de regimine principum,' a little treatise on the proper methods of ruling a country."(17) Twentieth-century critics have argued that, rather than being a digression or hiatus (as George Macaulay originally suggested), Book 7 is central to Confessio as a whole.(18) According to such interpretations, the theme of love is both subordinate to and profoundly imbricated in that of good governance, and it would seem that Confessio was intended as instruction for, in the first instance, Richard II (the text was originally dedicated to him). As Winthrop Wetherbee observes, Book 7 "places the obligations of self-governance and kingship in the context of world history, natural philosophy, and an alternative, classical system of ethics."(19) It begins with Genius, the priest of Venus, agreeing to Amans's request that he "the Scole schal declare / Of Aristotle and ek the fare / Of Alisandre, hou he was tauht" (7. 3-5). Genius then follows a basically Aristotelian scheme articulated in Latini's Tresor in dividing knowledge into three categories, with "Theorique" or the theoretical (theology, natural history, and mathematics), as the first, and "Practique" or the practical (political ethics, economics, and policy or governance), the third. However Genius diverges from Latini's scheme when he elevates "Rhetorique" to the second category; logic, which Latini has as his second category, is thus rendered subordinate to rhetoric and placed alongside the remaining art of the medieval trivium, grammar.(20)

Previous critics have discussed Gower's treatment of rhetoric in some detail, and I am particularly indebted here to the information they have provided about his use of his source material, and also to their explorations of the complex interrelations between rhetoric, ethics and politics.(21) In this article, my primary concern will be with the way in which Gower's construction of rhetoric can be seen to be both gendered and sexualized, especially when read alongside other classical and medieval discussions of the subject. This is of particular significance within the confessional framework of Gower's text, since the fictive narratives of Amans and Genius are used for exploring the lover's inner psyche and for bringing about his cure and hence are revealing about medieval notions of heterosexual masculinity. Even within Book 7 then, where the focus is on the ruler (both in the person of Alexander, and in the notion of the ideal king more generally) not Amans, we learn a great deal about gendered and sexualized identity. In the Middle Ages, the definition of heterosexual masculinity was closely tied to issues of patrilineage and genealogy. Medieval authors like Dante (and, as we will see, Gower), seem to have been particularly anxious about the possibility of being tainted by the sins of their metaphorical fathers. If the anecdote concerning Latini in Commedia reveals not only Dante's concerns about poetic inheritance, but also the link which exists in his imagination between literary pride, narcissism and sodomy, it also suggests that the pursuit of writing, which can gain a man renown and honour, can at the same time render him vulnerable to corruption. In what follows, I place what I judge to be Gower's ambivalent attitude to rhetoric in Book 7 and elsewhere in the context of Classical and contemporary ideas which connected eloquence with insincerity, masquerade, cosmetics, effeminacy, sodomy, and other forms of "moral degeneracy," vices which in turn were associated, in contemporary texts, with the court of Richard II. I will conclude by explaining how the troubled character of Dante's relationship with his old teacher is reflected in Gower's own anxiety of influence.

Rita Copeland argues that "For Gower, rhetoric is defined in almost entirely political terms."(22) Yet in his recent book, Lies, Slander, and Obscenity, Edwin Craun notes that in Book 7, Genius actually "establishes an ethical foundation to rhetoric in the cognitive function of words before he turns to its use in political discourse."(23) Genius opens his explication of rhetoric with a brief account of how "Above alle erthli creatures / The hihe makere of natures / The word to man hath yove alone, / So that the speche of his persone, / Or forto lese or forto winne, / The hertes thoght which is withinne / Mai shewe, what it wolde mene" (7. 1507-13). Genius's account of the origins of language, with its resonances of the Book of Genesis and of St. John's Gospel (John 1. 1-4) forges a strong link between God's gifts to humankind (language, but also Christ as the Word) and ethical and moral responsibilities. After stressing the importance of honesty and of avoiding any wicked abuse of language, Genius concludes: "Wherof touchende this partie / Is Rhetorique the science / Appropred to the reverence / Of wordes that ben resonable." (7. 1522-25) As Craun observes, "the play of sense in `resonable' links the cognitive function of words to rhetoric: in rhetoric, words both pertain to the faculty of reason' (MED 1b) and are eloquently expressed (MED 5)."(24) If, according to Aristotle, reason is humankind's principal distinguishing quality, by relating rhetoric to reason, Genius, or Gower, follows Latini and thus also classical authorities like Cicero in suggesting that rhetoric also places humanity above mere animals.(25)

Taking this further, it seems that in Gower, correct use of language is also gendered as masculine. If the ability to express one's thoughts in words "is noghwhere elles sene / Of kinde with non other beste" (7. 1514-15), proper speech is perhaps bestowed specifically on mankind, as opposed to mankind and womankind. While the word has a transformative power which can be used for good or evil (7. 1572-87), throughout Confessio, the virtue of honest eloquence seems primarily to be a masculine rather than feminine quality. Indeed, when Genius explains how "Word hath beguiled many a man; / With word the wilde beste is daunted, / With word the Serpent is enchaunted" (7. 1564-6), we might well be reminded that Adam, the first man, was deceived by the emotional, sensual and irrational Eve, who in turn transgressed because she allowed herself to be charmed by the words of a snake, a lowly creature which had illegitimately claimed for itself the power of speech. Likewise in Book 5, in the Tale of Jason and Medea, even though it is only through the woman's magical talismans and charms that Jason is able to slay the serpent and yoke the oxen and thus achieve his quest for the fleece, Medea's powers appear primarily to be derived from the disruption rather than manipulation of rhetoric and speech: "Sche made many a wonder soun, / Somtime lich unto the cock, / Sometime unto the Laverock, / Sometime kacleth as a Hen, / Somtime spekth as don the men: / And riht so as hir jargoun strangeth, / In sondri wise hir forme changeth, / Sche semeth faie and no womman" (5. 4098-105).(26) From the bathetic structure of this passage, it would seem that language and reasonable speech are even more alien to Medea, as a woman whose excessive and uncontrollable desire for her man is so typical of her sex, than is the cacophony of the birds: it is in fact at the moment when she speaks like a man that her "jargoun strangeth"--and, by implication, her transformation--reaches its ultimate realization.(27)

Yet although Gower seems to assume that the power of speech reaches its true fulfillment in men alone, Gotz Schmitz argues that he does not follow Cicero's, and thus also Latini's, class-based distinctions between language (common to all men) and eloquence (the preserve of the few and an indication of true nobility): "He levels both the distinctions between language and eloquence and between the few and the many by speaking of the `word' as an ability conferred on every man."(28) It is evident throughout Confessio that Gower sees a plain style as ideal. For example, in Book 7, Genius explains that one may find in Tullius [ie Cicero] "in what wise he schal pronounce / His tale plein withoute frounce [ambiguity]" (7. 1593-94).(29) If, according to Genius, rhetoric is related to reason, so eloquent words which do not correspond with reason are not truly rhetorical. The Latin verses which head this section on rhetoric in Book 7 suggest that "Compositi pulcra sermonis verba placere / Principio poterunt, veraque fine placent" [Fair words at first are pleasing in a speech, / But in the end what pleases is the truth] (7. 1506a-b).(30) Consequently, Gower also condemns outright the misuse of language: "For if the wordes semen goode / And ben wel spoke at mannes Ere, / Whan that ther is no trouthe there, / Thei don fulofte gret deceipte; / For whan the word to the conceipte / Descordeth in so double a wise, / Such Rethorique is to despise / In every place, and forto drede" (7. 1550-7). The pairing of deceipte/conceipte (see also 2. 2311-2) draws our attention to the hypocrisy which may hide behind the mask of eloquence. Plain-speaking advisors like the ribald in the Roman triumphal procession (7. 2355-411) or the unheeded prophet Micaiah (7. 2527-685) are represented positively in their narratives, whereas in Book 1, hypocrisy and trickery result in the deception of Paulina (1. 761-1059) and the destruction of Troy (1. 1077-189), and in Book 3, Cheste, or contention, the second subspecies of Wrath, demonstrates in his loose-talking another form of "croked eloquence" (3. 440). As Craun puts it, "In the Confessio, the deviant speaker is most often a more calculated and rhetorically savy speaker."(31) Gower, then, makes it clear that he values clarity and sincerity above false eloquence, which is artful and beguiling and can be treacherous.

But despite the class levelling implicit in Gower's adaptation of Latini, it is nonetheless the case that in Book 7 Gower is particularly concerned with the conduct of the king rather than the common man. Thus, we are told that Aristotle taught Alexander that truth was pre-eminent amongst the virtues, "So that his word be trewe and plein, / Toward the world and so certein / That in him be no double speche: / For if men scholde trouthe seche / And founde it noght withinne a king, / It were an unsittende thing" (7. 1731-36). Likewise, abuses of language are associated with the royal court. It is in this context that Genius argues that the monarch should shun flatterers, asserting that "This vice scholde be refused, / Wherof the Princes ben assoted. / But wher the pleine trouthe is noted, / Ther may a Prince wel conceive, / That he schal noght himself deceive, / Of that he hiereth wordes pleine" (7. 2338-43). The historical background for such warnings is of course the reign of Richard II:(32) at the time when Gower was writing Confessio (1386-90) the Appellants were attacking a number of the king's favourites, who were seen to be giving him bad council. Amongst them was Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who was thought to be too young to be an influential councillor, and who was found guilty of treason in 1388. Gower's choice of the word "assoted" [besotted] may well refer to Richard's obvious and immoderate affection for de Vere, whom he created Marquis of Dublin in 1386 and Duke of Ireland the following year. But the play on words, "wel conceive" may allude to concerns about the monarch's failure to produce a male heir.(33) Writing before 1381, that is even before Richard's friendship with de Vere had attracted public attention, Gower warned the king "sordibus implicitos falsosque cauebis amicos" [you shall beware of false friends involved in base behaviour](34) and urged him to avoid the sins of the flesh by marrying.(35) Gower's concerns about proper speech and about appropriate conduct for the king (as both an everyman figure and as the head of the body politic) are inevitably tied in with worries about the failure of the royal line. As we have seen in the case of Dante, and will see later in the discussion of Alain de Lille's De Planctu Naturae, rhetoric, reasonable behaviour, chastity and the obligation to reproduce are interrelated.

For Classical writers such as Cicero, rhetoric referred to the art of speech. Although he gives it a clear moral slant, Genius interprets it in this way at 7:1630-40: "Ther mai a man the Scole liere / Of Rhetoriqes eloquences / ... / Wherof a man schal justifie / Hise wordes in disputeisoun, / And knette upon conclusioun / His Argument in such a forme, / Which mai the pleine trouthe enforme / And the soubtil cautele abate, / Which every trewman schal debate." On one level (that of rhetoric as persuasion), the famous men named by Genius to illustrate his discussion of rhetoric support this definition: they are Ulysses, who convinced Antenor to betray his city (7. 1558-63), and Julius Caesar who successfully defended the traitors at the Catiline trial (7. 1595-628); the latter example is borrowed from Latini's Tresor. However neither can be described as a true man contending against subtle tricks. By the time Gower was writing, in fact, rhetoric was understood less in terms of its practical uses and more in terms of its decorative role:(36) as Schmitz notes, "In ordinary speech, the ornamental concept of rhetoric ... has been dominant ever since the Middle Ages: we still think of rhetorical figures or colores primarily when speaking of rhetorical style."(37) Even if, as Schmitz rightly suggests, Gower is indebted to the classical concept, his suspicion of rhetoric is closely related to the more narrow medieval sense of the word. Ulysses' "eloquence" and "facounde" (7. 1560) are only implicitly represented by Genius as a misuse of language, although few medieval readers would fail to recognize the ominous significance of any allusion to the fall of Troy, with its connotation of not only treachery, but also uncontrolled desire. Caesar is however explicitly contrasted with Cicero and his party who spoke "plein after the lawe" (7. 1623); it is said of Caesar that he "the wordes of his sawe / Coloureth in an other weie / Spekende" (7. 1624-6) and his manipulation of language is said to have won the debate in the face of "trouthe" and "the comun profit" (7. 1608-9). In a detailed comparison of this passage with its immediate source, Schmitz draws our attention to differences between the two writers: whereas Latini "accepts without scruples the purely instrumental character of rhetoric," Gower "alerts his reader to the fact that Caesar's use of rhetorical colouring obscures the truth and runs counter to the law."(38) It is perhaps indicative of the ambivalence with which Gower regards eloquence that both the MED and the OED cite this example in their respective definitions of the verb "colouren"/ "colour," but whereas the MED glosses the phrase "colouren wordes" as "to use words skillfully (to a certain effect)" and "coulouren speche" as to "use figurative language," the OED gives the following definition "To exhibit in a false light; to put an unfair or untrue construction upon; to misrepresent" (MED 2a; OED 3b).(39) While Genius's discussion of rhetoric seemingly draws a careful distinction between the use and the abuse of rhetoric, the examples he cites serve to blur rather than to clarify.

Gower's use of the word "colour" in his discussion of Caesar's rhetoric alerts us to the gender play underlying this section of Confessio Amantis, and it may throw some light on this gender play if we examine the background to it in some detail. Commenting on the "connection of love in the `modern' sense with fiction in the sense of disguise and deceit," Schmitz suggests that within Confessio, "the present world of love appears to be as superficial as a layer of make-up on an otherwise ill-favoured face."(40) Schmitz's choice of simile is both conventional and revealing. Schmitz is echoing the classical writers and the Church Fathers in viewing cosmetics in a negative light. According to Marcia L. Colish, St. Ambrose viewed the use of make-up "as one among a larger group of moral problems which all involve deception, cruelty, or dishonesty in one way or another."(41) Such thinking continued into the Middle Ages: Alain de Lille's Nature condemns the behaviour of arrogant and insincere men who adopt various modes of behaviour in order to stand out from the crowd, some of whom put on elaborate mannerisms while "Alii uero sua corpora femineis comptionibus nimis effeminant ..." [others overfeminize themselves with womanly adornments ...];(42) and in Guillaume de Lorris's section of Le Roman de la Rose, Love advises Amant to keep himself well-groomed, but warns him against excess: "`Mais ne te farde ne ne guigne: / Ce n'apartient s'as dames non, / Ou a ceus de mauvais renon, / Qui amors par male aventure / Ont trovees contre Nature'" ["but do not paint your face or wear make-up: only women do that, and those of evil reputation who have unfortunately found unlawful love"].(43) Similarly Latin authors frequently likened the misuse, or over-use, of rhetorical figures to false beauty. The influential Latin writer, Quintilian made the following criticism:

non aliter quam distortis et quocunque modo prodigiosis corporibus apud quosdam maius est pretium quam iis, quae nihil ex communi habitu boni perdiderunt. Atque etiam que specie capiuntur, vulsis levatisque et inustas comas acu comentibus et non suo colore nitidis plus esse formae putant, quam possit tribuere incorrupta natura, ut pulchritudo corporis venire videatur ex malis morum.

Similarly we see that some people place a higher value on figures which are in any way monstrous or distorted than they do on those who have not lost any of the advantages of the normal form of man. There are even some who are captivated by the shams of artifice and think that there is more beauty in those who pluck out superfluous hair or use depilatories, who dress their locks by scorching them with the curling iron and glow with a complexion that is not their own, than can ever be conferred by nature pure and simple, so that it really seems as if physical beauty depended entirely on moral hideousness.(44)

The use of make-up, the abuse of the figures of rhetoric, and an immoral disposition were seen to be closely interrelated. As Jacqueline Lichtenstein explains, "used to excess, ornament becomes makeup, which conceals rather than elucidates truth."(45)

Images of artificially coloured or made-up faces combined with lying words haunt Gower's writing. One example in Confessio occurs in the Latin verses in the Prologue at line 92: "Nuncque latens odium vultum depingit amoris, / Paceque sub ficta tempus ad arma tegit" [Now hidden hatred paints a loving face, / And hides a time of war beneath feigned peace] (Prol.92g-h). Another occurs in Book 1 in the description of two-faced Hypocrisy, who "The colour of the reyni Mone / With medicine upon his face / He set" (1. 692-4) in order to feign love-sickness.(46) Thus Gower's choice of the word "colour" to describe, apparently pejoratively, Julius Caesar's eloquence when he pleaded for mercy in a case of high treason clearly carries with it connotations of falsified appearances and verbal masquerade (see also 1. 606 and 2. 1874). Other words which recur in Confessio in similar contexts to "colour" and with a similar range of meanings are "peinte"--which can clearly refer to the application of cosmetics (for example in 1. 1346) as well as to linguistic embellishment; its rhyming pair is often "queinte" with its connotations of cunning and dissimulation (e.g. 1. 283-84; 1. 2729-30; 2. 2853-54; 5. 4623-24) -- and "coverture," meaning "a protective device, a refuge; a disguise or pretext," and, more sinisterly, "concealment; stealth" (1. 645; 2. 1939; 4. 1102; MED 5 and 6a).(47)

In the Latin tradition, (ab)use of rhetoric was not only associated with cosmetics, but, by extension, also with effeminacy: Cicero's eloquence was dismissed as "emasculated" by Brutus, and in similar terms by Quintilian(48) who praised the manly vigour of the genuine orator, but condemned the modern taste for expressions which he describes as "impropria, obscura, tumida, humilia, sordida, lasciva, effeminata" [inappropriate, obscure, high-flown, grovelling, mean, extravagant or effeminate].(49) The connection between rhetoric and effeminacy is perhaps most fully realized in one of Gower's primary sources for Confessio Amantis, Alain de Lille's De Planctu Naturae. Alain's attitude to rhetoric is similar in some respects to Gower's (like Gower, Alain was suspicious of elaborate diction), but Alain is more direct in his criticisms. According to Jan Ziolkowski, Alain's attitude to the art of speaking is not one of outright condemnation, but rather one of "healthy skepticism."(50) Although Nature does not advocate the total avoidance of rhetorical figures, and indeed justifies her own use of them on more than one occasion,(51) we are told that one of the flaws in rhetoric is the way in which stylistic range can be manipulated by the hypocrite to flatter or to detract, irrespective of true merit.(52) In addition, figurative language or literary devices are admissible only in so far as their use can be justified. Nature also relates to the narrator of De Planctu Naturae how she tried to teach Venus the difference between an excusable and an inexcusable figure of speech.(53) Right at the beginning of the text, Alain's narrator draws on the metaphors of the "tropus" [trope; an acceptable rhetorical usage] and "vitium" [defect, vice; an unacceptable stylistic device] to describe abuses of the laws of Nature which have resulted in men degenerating into the passive sex, in other words becoming like women or hermaphrodites:(54)
   Se negat esse uirum Nature, factus in arte Barbarus. Ars illi non placet,
   immo tropus. Non tamen ista tropus poterit translatio dici. In uicium
   melius ista figura cadit.

Becoming a barbarian by nature, he disclaims the manhood given him by nature. Grammar does not find favour with him, but rather a trope. This transposition, however, cannot be called a trope. The figure here more correctly falls into the category of defects.(55)

In this text the personification of Nature characterizes the manifold perversities of humankind as those which are primarily concerned with non-reproductive forms of intercourse and issues of lineage, including sodomy in its narrow sense of sexual relations between men. She blames them on Venus and her persistent abuses of the trivium:

Sed pocius se gramaticis constructionibus destruens, dialeticis conuersionibus inuertens, rethoricis coloribus decolorans, suam artem in figuram, figuram in uicium transferebat ...

On the contrary, destroying herself with the connections of Grammar, perverting herself with the conversions of Dialectic, discolouring herself with the colours of Rhetoric, she (Venus) kept turning her art into a figure and the figure into a defect.(56)

Rhetorical vices, moral corruption and perversity are inseparable from one another. Furthermore, sodomy and other forms of deviance seem to be represented in De Planctu Naturae as almost irresistibly attractive.(57) In the same way, Alain implies, people find effeminate rhetorical devices in general, and tropes or literary contrivances in particular, more pleasing than a virile, in other words masculine and potent, plain style, and their influences are consequently the more insidious. As Ziolkowski puts it, "Just as the serpent beguiles the quail, so the sophist misleads the uninitiated with a quick tongue and an impudent misapplication of the anvil of creation."(58)

The court satire and other literature of the later Middle Ages likewise reveal a nexus between rhetoric, dissimulation, effeminacy, self-indulgence, and all forms of lust including sodomy.(59) In Thomas Walsingham's chronicle, we find courtly speech being linked to womanizing and idleness:

Et hii nimirum milites plures erant Veneris quam Bellonae, plus valentes in thalamo quam in campo, plus lingua quam lancea praemuniti, ad dicendum vigiles, ad faciendum acta martia somnolenti. Hii igitur, circa Regem conversantes, nihil quod deceret tantum militem informare curabant....

(And surely) they were knights of Venus rather than knights of Bellona, more valiant in the bedchamber than on the field, armed with words rather than weapons, prompt in speaking but slow in performing the acts of war. These fellows, who are in close association with the King, care nothing for what a knight ought to know....(60)

Even if Walsingham's infamous claim that the advancement of de Vere was the result of his "familiaritatis obscoenae" [intimate familiarity; i.e., sodomitical relationship] with the king was never repeated,(61) other writers of the time were aware of an apparently fairly wide-spread identification of masquerade and effeminacy with the court of Richard II.(62) In other words, even if, after reading about the fate of Brunetto Latini in Dante's Commedia, Gower did not make the connection between rhetoric, moral degeneracy and sodomy, Alain's concerns about the dangerous influence of corrupt language are as pertinent as Latini's Tresor to Gower's discussion of rhetoric, and it is plausible that this may have also been "coloured" by contemporary writing and satire.

The conceptual link between false eloquence and sodomy (in its most general sense of non-reproductive sexual intercourse) indicates that it would be wrong to isolate Gower's discussion of rhetoric from Genius's praise of "honeste" love and marriage, or from the extended account of chastity as the fifth point of Policy (7. 4215-5397; esp. 4215). Effeminacy is a form of moral degeneracy which Gower condemns outright on a number of occasions. Most notably, in his discussion of chastity in Book 7, Genius states: "Therfore a Prince him scholde avise, / Er that he felle in such riote, / And namely that he nassote / To change for the wommanhede / The worthinesse of his manhede" (7. 4252-6; see also the Latin verses at 7. 4214 a-d; and the Tale of Sardanapalus, 7. 4313-43). In his discussion of the rhetoricians in 7. 1158-628, Gower does not depict either of his silver-tongued orators as womanly. Nonetheless, their masculinity was not unimpeachable. As Ad Putter has pointed out, in medieval versions of the debate over the inheritance of Achilles's armour in Ovid's Metamorphosis (13), Ajax accuses his eloquent opponent of effeminacy:
   Femineis Itacus nugis exuberat, expers Virtutis, Verres crimine, fraude
   Sinon. Oris pollicitis mens est contraria, belli Nescia, cum lingua
   disputat egra manus.

The Ithacan (Ulysses) triumphs in feminine trifles. Without prowess, he is a Verres in crime, and a Sinon in fraud. His polished speech belies his willpower, it does not want to know about war; those with feeble hands must needs fight with words.(63)

Gower, who elsewhere in Confessio, associates Ulysses with both rhetoric and double-dealing,(64) has Nauplus accuse Ulysses of dishonouring his reputation by feigning madness and staying at home with his wife rather than fighting like a man: "That thou for Slouthe of eny love / Schalt so thi lustes sette above / And leve of armes the knyhthode, / Which is the pris of thi manhode / And oghte ferst to be desired" (4. 1877-81). The example of Ulysses is directly contrasted to that of Protesilaus, who exemplifies manly prowess, refusing to pay attention to the "wommannysshe drede" of his spouse and embracing the prospect of losing his life in battle (4. 1924).

Likewise, Julius Caesar had a reputation for effeminacy, although this had less to do with his eloquence and more to do with his sexual profligacy and rumours that he had played the passive role in his sexual relationship with Nicodemes, king of Bithynia. Suetonius states: "At ne cui dubium omnino sit et impudicitiae et adulteriorum flagrasse infamia, Curio pater quadam eum oratione omnium mulierum virum et omnium virorum mulierem appellat" [But to remove all doubt that he had an evil reputation both for shameless vice and for adultery, I have only to add that the elder Curio in one of his speeches calls him "every woman's man and every man's woman"].(65) Likewise, according to Catullus: "Pulcre convenit improbis cinaedis, / Mamurrae pathicoque Caesarique. / ... / morbosi pariter, gemelli utrique, / uno in lecticulo erudituli ambo, / non hic quam ille magis vorax adulter, / rivales socii puellularum" [Well agreed are the abominable profligates, / Maurra the effeminate, and Caesar / ... / Diseased alike, very twins, / both on one sofa, dilettante writers both, / one as greedy in adultery as the other, / rivals and partners in love].(66) While Gower makes no reference to Caesar's reputation, it was widely known in the Middle Ages. Not only was Suetonius Petrarch's principal source for his De viris illustribus, but Dante has the poet Guido Guinicelli refer to the story in Purgatorio 26:
   "La gente che non vien con noi, offese
   di cio per che gia Cesar, trionfando,
   regina contra se chiamar s'intese.
   Pero si parton Soddoma gridando,
   rimproverando a se com'hai udito,
   ed aiutan l'arsura vergognando."

   "The folk who come not with us, used to err
   in that for which Caesar, triumphing,
   heard `Queen' against him shouted: whence at their
   departure from us they, to feel the sting
   of self-reproof, shout `Sodom,' as thou'st heard,
   and on the fire their shame as fuel fling."(67)

Of course the objection might be put forward that in his discussion of rhetoric Gower does not actually refer to either Ulysses' womanliness, or Caesar's depravity and that therefore, in Confessio, the connection between rhetoric and effeminacy and sodomy is not established, that unlike Dante Gower does not represent the rhetorician as sodomite. Nonetheless, we cannot isolate the text from its literary and cultural contexts and such connections did exist whether or not Gower and his readers consciously made them. Furthermore I would argue that Gower may have been aware of the fact that Dante had represented Brunetto Latini--the immediate although unacknowledged authority for much of Gower's discussion of rhetoric--as a notorious and unrepentant sodomite, and also as a proud and narcissistic author. And like Dante, who shared his disquiet about literary genealogy and inheritance, Gower must have had a complex and highly problematic experience of the anxiety of influence. It seems logical then to posit that Gower's ambivalence about rhetoric--with its associations with make-up, masquerade and effeminacy--forced him to question his own role as rhetorician and poet.

Having started with Dante's touching portrait of Brunetto Latini, it seems appropriate to begin the final section of this essay with Gower's own depiction of the great Italian poet. In the first recension of Confessio Book 7, Genius inserts a brief narrative about Dante into his account of the evils of flattery. He recounts Dante's words to a flatterer with whom he had quarrelled: "`Ther ben many mo / Of thy servantes than of myne. / For the poete of his covyne / Hath non that wol him clothe and fede, / But a flatour may reule and lede / A king with al his lond aboute'" (First recension 7. 2332-37) Unlike Latini in Commedia, Gower's Dante does not exhibit false pride or vanity. Genius uses this story to illustrate the differences between a poor poet and a king--the latter is susceptible to the insincere and manipulative words of others in a way that the former is not. In line with other changes to the text, the later deletion of this passage indicates that Gower probably identified the king with Richard II (although it should be noted that Gower also omits his line in praise of Chaucer found in the first recension [8. 2941-57]). At any rate, Gower aligns himself with Dante. Yet, at the same time, he distances himself from the actual and appropriated authorities for Book 7: most notably Latini, whom he never names, but also Aristotle, whom he includes amongst the company of Elde in Book 8 because he was said to have allowed himself to have been bridled for love of the Queen of Greece, "that in thilke time / Sche made him such as Silogime, / That he foryat al his logique" (8. 2707-9). Yet in Gower's Dante episode the implication is also that the poet--who presumably utters truths rather than falsehoods--has less control over the king than the flatterer. Gower, then, uses Dante to reflect on the limitations on his own role as poet and author of a mirror for princes. Indeed, Gower's strong distrust of the King's advisors and his suspicion of rhetoric reflects back on himself. In Book 7 of Confessio, Gower speaking through the personae of Genius and Aristotle sets himself up as an advisor to the king, but he then goes on to problematize his own position as a plain-speaking councillor.

If Gower condemns verbal artifice as hypocritical and, by implication, effeminate and even sodomitical, at the end of Confessio he nonetheless makes the insincere, or at any rate rhetorical claim, in the epilogue to the first recension, that he has used "no Rethoriqe" (First recension 8. 3064). In the revised version he explains to the learned (male) reader:
   And now to speke as in final,
   Touchende that y undirtok
   In englesch lotto make a book
   Which stant betwene ernest and game,
   I have it maad as thilke same
   Which axe lotto ben excusid,
   And that my bok be nought refusid
   Of lered men, whan thei it se,
   For lak of curiosite:
   For thilke scole of eloquence
   Belongith nought to my science,
   Uppon the forme of rethoriqe
   My wordis forto peinte and pike,
   As Tullius som tyme wrot.
   Bot this y knowe and this y wot,

   That y have do my trewe peyne
   With rude wordis and with pleyne,
   In al that evere y couthe and myghte
   This bok to write as y behighte,
   So as siknesse it soffre wolde;
   And also for my daies olde,
   That y am feble and impotent,
   I wot nought how the world ys went.

   (8. 3106-28)

In this passage, by specifying the vernacular status of Confessio Amantis, Gower is distinguishing it from his earlier Vox Clamantis (rather than his Anglo-Norman Mirour de l'Omme, which survives in only one manuscript and does not seem to have been disseminated). Nevertheless, even if the language of his English text is far less elaborate than the Latin Vox, the adjectives "rude" and "pleyne" are not entirely apposite. Gower cannot completely avoid the colours and conceits of rhetoric in Confessio Amanti. Throughout the poem, Gower's Latin verses in particular display his virtuosity,(68) but such demonstrations are not limited to them. Even as Gower claims that his book lacks "curiosite" [artful skill] and denies that he can "peinte and pike" in the manner of Tullius Cicero, he demonstrates his ability to do so in English in an apology which is more than a mere humility topos.(69) What is more, we might well remember that at 7. 1594 it was a style "plein withoute frounce" which Cicero was said to have advocated, and surely Gower's representation of his plain style, not as virile and the very opposite of effeminate, but as "impotent" and unmanly, should be read ironically rather than taken at face value.

Hostile critics might then find more reason to describe Confessio--a self-evidently eloquent and crafted work of literature--as made-up and effeminate rather than impotent. Writing in the sixteenth century, for example, Alexander Barclay dismissed it as a "thing wanton, not sad but insolent," that is not serious but going beyond the bounds of propriety.(70) Barclay claims that his patron, Sir Giles Alington, had asked him to abridge Confessio and to modernize it in order to correct the "corrupte Englishe." Barclay, however, had refused on the grounds that "A man with hoare heres uncomely doth incline / To misframed fables or gesture feminine." This self-portrait of the aged translator, who knows better than to dabble in immature and womanly matters, is clearly intended as a criticism of the superannuated Gower, who (Barclay implies) has failed to learn from years of experience. Barclay's comments indicate that he took at face value Gower's depiction of himself in Confessio. Gower's narrator is indisputably not all that he seems, as the marginal note at 1. 60 makes manifest at the very start of the work: "Hic quasi in persona aliorum, quos amor alligat, fingens se auctor esse Amantem, varias eorum passiones variis huius libri distinccionibus per singula scribere proponit" [Here, as if in the person of others, whom love has fettered, the author represents himself as (or feigns himself to be) a lover, (and) he proposes to write, in the various parts of this book, (about) their various passions, one by one.](71) In my reading of this gloss, I take issue with Minnis's view that "the commentator on the Confessio Amantis was determined to prove that Gower ... was a good auctor."(72) I would argue instead that the Latin gloss deliberately reveals the author-narrator's duplicity for ironic effect: disguised as the devoted lover he is falsifying his own appearance. And it is manifest throughout Confessio that Gower's double, Amans, is not exempt from charges of insincerity. Rather he might be included in the ranks of those lovers "that feignen hem an humble port, / And al is bot Ypocrisie" (1. 674-5),(73) although for all his self-acclaimed skills in verbal masquerade, Amans is far less successful in love than he is at feigning penitence or at coloring his confession (to borrow a phrase from Quintilian).(74) By the end of the poem Amans has been exposed as a fraud when he beholds himself in the looking-glass handed to him by Venus and sees his "colour fade" (8. 2825). The transformation into both the likeness of the gray-headed author and the ridiculous senex amans, desirable to no-one is itself the distorted reflection of the deception carried out by those who adorn their own faces with cosmetics. Having associated false language with masquerade and effeminacy, and attempted to distance his own plain style from such dishonest rhetoric, Gower (or the figure of the author-narrator) and his double Amans find themselves implicated in these very vices.

Any discussion of a writer's anxiety of influence and concerns about literary inheritance would do well to consider points of origin in its conclusion, if it has failed to do so at an earlier stage. The Prologue to Confessio Amantis begins with Gower's ruminations about textual survival, human mortality, and the legacy of knowledge: "Of hem that writen ous tofore / The bokes duelle, and we therfore / Ben tawht of that was write tho: / Forthi good is that we also / In oure tyme among ous hiere / Do wryte of newe som matiere, / Essampled of these olde wyse / So that it myhte in such a wyse, / Whan we ben dede and elleswhere, / Beleve to the worldes eere / In tyme comende after this" (Prol. 1-11). While such a frank assertion of the didactic value of literature is perfectly in keeping with medieval theories about the function of poetry, these lines may well seem rather ominous when read in the context of Dante's Inferno canto 15, in which we learned the fate of that earlier writer and teacher who desired to see his work preserved for the benefit of future generations. The complexities of the genesis of Gower's poem become apparent when, in the first version of the Prologue, the author describes the moment of its inception. Here (in a scene curiously reminiscent of that in which Dante happened upon Latini by the embankment of the Stygian brook), Gower relates how, rowing along the Thames one day, he by chance met with King Richard (First Recension Prol. 34-45). Having been invited to board the royal barge, Gower claims that the monarch issued him a command to write "som newe thing" (First Recension Prol.51). Richard, in other words, is named as the father of Gower's text. This is of course a variation on the usual sort of anxiety of influence, which would refer to a literary authority or written source rather than a patron. The subsequent elision of the dedicatory passage following the king's decline in support (but before his deposition) is an example of Gower's political expediency, but it also reflects his desire to distance himself from his former royal patron and from the accusations of incompetence and corruption made during his reign, and thus to preserve his book from moral taint. Indeed if we connect this elision to Gower's failure to name Latini as the main authority for Book 7, we might be tempted to conclude that the author specifically wanted to avoid the stain of sodomy. At any rate, the Ricardian poet was aware that the writer, like the courtier, was as susceptible to charges of effeminacy and degeneracy as he was to those of flattery and hypocrisy, and that not only his success but also his masculinity was contingent on the reputation of his patron. Indeed, the decision on Gower's part to revise those parts of Confessio which praise the unpopular monarch is actually mirrored in Barclay's refusal to translate any part of it on the grounds that "to write, reade or commen of thing venerious" would be sufficient "to rayse bad name contagious."(75) Just as Gower did not want to be contaminated by Richard, so Barclay did not want to be infected by Gower.

My discussion of Gower's attitude to his craft has given primacy to Book 7 of Confessio Amantis, and in particular to the short section on rhetoric. Previous critics have justified foregrounding Book 7 on the basis that the discussion of philosophy, conduct and good governance contained therein is a fitting response to Richard II's request for a volume which he might himself peruse (First Recension Prol.46-53). Yet while the positioning of this advice to princes seems problematic (surely it would have been more sensible to place it at the beginning or end of the text?), the discussion of chastity indicates that Book 7 is not entirely divorced from the framing narrative of the confession and smoothes the way for the return to the main theme of love in Book 8. My argument suggests that the section on rhetoric also connects with the matter of (heterosexual) desire and appropriate male conduct in a way not previously identified. Gower, like Dante before him and Barclay after, is preoccupied not only with literary genealogy and inheritance--with his own reputation and the notoriety or emminence of his patron, forefathers, and other authorities--but also with the questions of whether writing is a legitimate and moral activity, what is the proper way to do it, and how to achieve a virile rhetorical style.(76)

University of Wales, Aberystwyth


(1) Inferno 15.25-30. All quotations from Inferno and Purgatorio are from Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, ed. and tr. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981).

(2) Inferno 15:84-85.

(3) For an overview of critical responses, see Joseph Pequigney, "Sodomy in Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio," Representations 39 (1991): 22-42; 26-27.

(4) See Michel Foucault's widely-accepted description of sodomy as an "utterly confused category" in The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction, tr. Robert Hurley (London: Allen Lane, 1979), 101. An important recent study of the meaning or grammar of sodomy in the Middle Ages is Mark I). Jordan's The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. (U. of Chicago Press, 1997), esp. 1-9.

(5) It is remarkable that the words sodomita [sodomite] and sodomia [sodomy] are never actually applied to Brunetto Latini or his sins. Nor, for that matter, as Joseph Pequigney observes, do they occur anywhere the Commedia: Pequigney, "Sodomy," 22. Pequigney explains that the sin is designated by the proper noun Soddoma [Sodom] which occurs on only three occasions: Inferno 11.50, Purgatorio 26.40, and Purgatorio 26.79. He sees Dante's conception of and attitude towards sodomy as influenced by but distinct from that of St. Thomas Aquinas, and convincingly argues that Dante's attitude to sodomy undergoes "a sea-change" as the Commedia progresses. Certainly, whereas in Inferno it is viewed as more serious than sinful heterosexual desire, in Purgatorio sodomy is represented as a species of lust, the most excusable of the seven capital sins.

(6) For examples of connections being made between idolatry and sodomy in the writings of St. Jerome and Gregory the Great, see Jordan, Invention, 36.

(7) Inferno 15:119-20.

(8) Eugene Vance, "The Differing Seed: Dante's Brunetto Latini" in his Mervelous Signals: Poetics and Sign Theory in the Middle Ages (U. of Nebraska Press, 1986), 230-55; 253.

(9) Inferno 11.48.

(10) See R. Howard Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies: A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages (U. of Chicago Press, 1983), esp. 135:

(11) On the "outdoing topos" see Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature in the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard R. Trask (London: Routledge, 1953), 162-65.

(12) Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1973).

(13) Inferno 15.55-56.

(14) Inferno 15.88-90.

(15) Li Livres dou Tresor de Brunetto Latini, ed. F. J. Carmody (U. of California Press, 1948).

(16) James J. Murphy, "John Gower's Confessio Amantis and the First Discussion of Rhetoric in the English Language," PQ 41 (1962): 401-11. In addition to Latini's Tresor, major sources of Book 7 of Confessio include the Pseudo-Aristotelian Secretum secretorum, Giles of Rome's De regimine principum, and Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum maius: see Rita Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages (Cambridge U. Press, 1991), 210. All references to Confessio Amantis are to The English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, EETS e.s. 81, 82 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1900-1901).

(17) A.J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (Aldershot: Scholar Press, 1988), 184.

(18) Macaulay described Book 7 as "absolutely irrelevant to the main subject": G. C. Macaulay, "The Confessio Amantis" reprinted in Gower's Confessio Amantis: A Critical Anthology, ed. Peter Nicholson (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1991), 6-14; 10. For more recent responses, see, for example, George R. Coffman, "John Gower in His Most Significant Role" reprinted in Gower's Confessio Amantis, ed. Nicholson, 40-48; Judith Ferster, Fictions of Advice: the Literature and Politics of Counsel in Late Medieval England (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 108-34; John H. Fisher, John Gower, Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (London: Methuen, 1965); M.A. Manzalaoui, "`Noght in the Registre of Venus': Gower's English Mirror For Princes" in

Medieval Studies for J. A. W. Bennett AEtatis Sum LXX, ed. P.L. Heyworth (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 159-83; A. J. Minnis, "John Gower, Sapiens in Ethics and Politics" reprinted in Gower's Confessio Amantis, ed. Nicholson, 158-80; Russell A. Peck, Kingship and Common Profit in Gower's Confessio Amantis (Southern Illinois U. Press, 1978); Elizabeth Porter, "Gower's Ethical Microcosm and Political Macrocosm" in Gower's Confessio Amantis: Responses and Reassessments, ed. A.J. Minnis (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1983), 135-62; Larry Scanlon, Narrative, Authority, and Power: the Medieval Exemplum and the Chaucerian Tradition (Cambridge U. Press, 1994), 245-97; James Simpson, Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry: Alan of Lille's Anticlaudianus and John Gower's Confessio Amantis (Cambridge U. Press, 1995).

(19) Winthrop Wetherbee, "John Gower" in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 589-609; 604.

(20) On Gower's debt to Latini, see especially Copeland, Rhetoric, 207-11, and Gotz Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction: Gower's Comments on Eloquence and Courtly Poetry" in Gower's Confessio Amantis, ed. Nicholson, 117-42; 121-29.

(21) Murphy ("First Discussion") argues that Gower had no real technical understanding of rhetoric, but more nuanced recent studies reveal that Confessio Amantis has a developed and sophisticated rhetorical structure See for example, Copeland, Rhetoric, 202-20; Edwin D. Craun, Lies, Slander and Obscenity in Medieval English Literature: Pastoral Rhetoric and the Deviant Speaker (Cambridge U. Press, 1997) 113-56; Minnis, "John Gower"; Minnis, "`Moral Gower' and Medieval Literary Theory" in Gower s Confessio Amantis, ed. Minnis, 50-78; Minnis, Medieval Theory, 168-90; Kurt Olsson, John Gower and the Structures of Conversion: A Reading of the Confessio Amantis (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1992); Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction"; and R.F. Yeager, John Gower's Poetic: The Search for a New Arion (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1990).

(22) Copeland, Rhetoric, 210.

(23) Craun, Lies, Slander, and Obscenity, 119 [my italics].

(24) Craun, Lies, Slander, and Obscenity, 121.

(25) See Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 126-27.

(26) For an analysis of Medea's "jargoun", see Nicola F. McDonald's forthcoming article, "John Gower's Medea Genetrix." Having had her tongue torn out, Philomene is also described as chattering "as a brid jargoune" (5. 5700).

(27) For the connection between women and excessive desire and the association of feminine language with the disruption of rhetoric (both of which date back to the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle), see Helene Cixous, "Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out / Forays" in Helene Cixous and Catherin Clement, The Newly Born Woman, tr. Betsy Wing, intro. Sandra M. Gilbert (London: I.B. Tauris, 1996), 63-132. See also Helene Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa," tr. K. Cohen and P. Cohen, Signs 1 (1976): 875-899. For an overview on ecriture feminine, see Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (London: Methuen, 1985).

(28) Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 127.

(29) Compare the depiction of Malebouch, who is unable to pronounce "A plein Food word withoute frounce [sneer]" (2. 392). For the meanings of "frounce" as "frown or sneer" and "complication, ambiguity", see MED 1b and 1c.

(30) Translations of the Latin verses are from The Latin Verses in the Confessio Amantis, ed. and tr. Sign Echard and Claire Fanger (East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1991). Echard and Fanger note that the second line echoes the description of False-seeming in 2. 1878g-h, "politi / Principium pacti finis habere negat" which they translate as `the end/ Of his smooth pledge denies what's first implied.'

(31) Craun, Lies, Slander, and Obscenity, 125.

(32) For Gower's distrust of the royal advisers see Gervase Mathew, The Court of Richard H (London: John Murray, 1968), 81. Other important studies of the reign of Richard II (in chronological order) include Anthony Steele, Richard II (Cambridge U. Press, 1941, repr. 1962), which should be read alongside the review by V.H. Galbraith, "A New Life of Richard II," History 26 (1942): 223-39; Richard H. Jones, The Royal Policy of Richard II: Absolutism in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1968); Anthony Tuck, Richard II and the English Nobility (London: Edward Arnold, 1973); and Nigel Saul, Richard II (Yale U. Press, 1997).

(33) See Saul, Richard H, 406-57. I am grateful to Alfred Thomas for suggesting to me the significance of Richard II's lack of an heir.

(34) Vox Clamantis, 6. 643. References to Vox Clamantis are to The Latin Works of John Gower, ed. G.C. Macaulay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902). The tranlasation is from The Major Latin Works of John Gower, tr. Eric W. Stockton (U. of Washington Press, 1962), 235.

(35) Vox Clamantis 6. 853-916.

(36) Curtius, European Literature, 62-78.

(37) Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 124.

(38) Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 122-26; 125.

(39) These contrasting definitions can be explained by the two different meanings of of the word. According to Schmitz, color could both be "a synonym of ornatus" and mean "the glossing necessary to give a fair appearance to a dubious case": "Rhetoric and Fiction," 124-25, n. 13 and n. 14. Murphy oversimplifies when he contends that Gower "uses the term `colour' only in the classical Latin sense of `semblance or appearance'": "First Discussion," 408.

(40) Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 133.

(41) Marcia L. Colish, "Cosmetic Theology: The Transformations of a Stoic Theme," Assays 1 (1981): 3-14: 10.

(42) Alain de Lille, De Planctu Naturae, prosa 7.34 (tr. Sheridan, 187); contrast the depiction of manly Hymenaeus in prosa 8.1-21 (tr. Sheridan, 196-97). All references to De Planctu are to Alan of Lille, "De Planctu Naturae," ed. Nikolaus M. Haring, Studi medievali, series 3, 19 (1978), 797-879. Translations are from The Plaint of Nature, tr. James J. Sheridan (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1980).

(43) Le Roman de la Rose, 2170-74 (tr. Horgan, 33); cf. Alain de Lille, De Planctu Naturae, prosa 8.48-50 (tr. Sheridan, 198-99). All references to Le Roman are to Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose, ed. Ernest Langlois, 5 vols., Societe de Anciens Textes Francais (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1914-1924). The translation is from The Romance of the Rose, tr. Frances Horgan (Oxford U. Press, 1994).

(44) Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 2.5.11-12. All references are to The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, ed. and tr. H.E. Butler, 4 vols., Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1920).

(45) Jacqueline Lichtenstein, "Making Up Representation: the Risks of Femininity," Representations 20 (1987): 77-87; 78.

(46) CF. also the Latin verses describing Hypocrisy (1.574.e-h).

(47) See A Concordance to John Gower's Confessio Amantis, ed. J.D. Pickles and J.L. Dawson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1987).

(48) Lichtenstein, "Making Up Representation," 79.

(49) Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, 2.5.10.

(50) Jan Ziolkowski, Alan of Lille's Grammar of Sex: The Meaning of Grammar to a Twelfth-Century Intellectual (Cambridge, Mass., Medieval Academy of America, 1985), 29.

(51) See De Planctu Naturae, prosa 4.170-72 (tr. Sheridan, 142-43); and prosa 3.121-24 (tr. Sheridan, 123-24).

(52) "Sed si muneris anthonomasia uideatur laudum tympana postulare, adulationis poeta stilo conmendationis turget altiloquo. Si uero muneris pauperies fame mendicat suffragia, humiliori stilo fame depauperat dignitatem." [However, if an expression to describe the gift seems to call for the drums of praise, the poet of flattery grows swollen in a bombastic style of eulogy. If, however, a poor gift begs aid for fame, he robs the account of it by a more lowly style.]: De Planctu Naturae, prosa 7.108-111 (tr. Sheridan, 191).

(53) De Planctu Naturae, prosa 5.35-42 (tr. Sheridan, 156); cf De Planctu Naturae, prosa 5.108-14 (tr. Sheridan, 162). The source of Nature's teaching here can once again be traced back to Quintilian, who drew a distinction between "proper" and "improper" or "figurative" language. He argued, "propria sunt verba, cum id significant, in quod primo denominata sunt; translata, cum alium natura intellectum alium loco praebent" [words are proper when they bear their original meaning; metaphorical, when they are used in a sense different from their natural meaning] (Institutio oratoria, 1.5.71).

(54) For the distinction between "tropus" and "vitium" see Ziolkowski, Alan of Lille, 17.

(55) De Planctu Naturae, metrum 1.21-24 (tr. Sheridan, 68).

(56) De Planctu Naturae, prosa 5.1421-144 (tr. Sheridan, 164); cf. the discussion the sophistic pseudographer in prosa 4. In this context, see also Le Roman de la Rose and Simon Gaunt's analysis in "Bel Acueil and the Improper Allegory of the Romance of the Rose," New Medieval Literatures 2 (1998): 65-93; 86-93.

(57) Commenting on the dire warnings that Nature has to give Venus against unnatural unions, Keiser remarks that "Apparently, same-sex union is thought to be so desirable that only the severest threats and combinations can deter the human male from finding it preferable to heterosexual intercourse" (Elizabeth B. Keiser, Courtly Desire and Medieval Homophobia: The Legitimazation of Sexual Pleasure in Cleanness and Its Contexts [Yale U. Press, 1997], 75).

(58) Ziolkowski, Alan of Lille, 29; see also Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies, 133-135.

(59) See, for example, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. and tr. Marjorie Chibnall, 6 vols., Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford U. Press, 1969-80): 4.188-89. On courtly literature and the meaning of effeminacy in the Middle Ages, see: C. Stephen Jaeger, The Origins of Courtliness: Civilizing Trends and the Formation of Courtly Ideals 939-1290 (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 176-94; Keiser, Courtly Desire; Ad Putter, "Arthurian Literature and the Rhetoric of Effeminacy,'" Arthurian Romance and Gender: Selected Proceedings of the XVIIth International Arthurian Congress ed Friedrich Wolfzettel (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995), 34-49.

(60) Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ed. H.T. Riley, 2 vols., Rolls Series (London: Longman, 1863-4): 2:156 [my italics]. Translated by Patrica J. Eberle in "The Politics of Courtly Style at the Court of Richard II" in The Spirit of the Court: Selected Proceeding of the Fourth Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society (Toronto 1983), ed. Glyn S. Burgess and Roberta A. Taylor (Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 1985), 168-79; 169.

(61) Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, 2.148. See George B. Stow, "Richard II in Thomas Walsingham's Chronicles," Speculum 59 (1984): 68-102. John Boswell points out that accusations of sodomy were often made against unpopular monarchs: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (U. of Chicago Press, 1980). 229.

(62) See the discussions about the occurrence of the words "disgysing"/"disfiguracione" [disguising, disfiguring] and "mollicia" [effeminacy, softness] in the Lollards' Twelve Conclusions and Roger Dymmok's response in Eberle, "Politics," 174, and Fiona Somerset, "Answering the Twelve Conclusions: Dymmok's Halfhearted Gestures Towards Publication" in Lollardy and Gentry in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Margaret Aston and Colin Richmond (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), 52-76; 62-63.

(63) Quoted and translated by Putter in "Arthurian Literature," 38.

(64) See his intervention in the story of Achilles and Deidamia at 5. 3126-34.

(65) Suetonius, ed. and tr. J.C. Rolfe, 2 vols., Loeb Classical Library, (London: Heinemann, 1914), 1.52.

(66) Catullus, ed. and tr. Francis Warre Cornish, rev. G. P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1988), no. 57.

(67) Purgatorio 26.76-81.

(68) Sian Echard's recent work has highlighted the verbal ingenuity of the different and often conflicting narrative voices of Confessio: "With Carmen's Help: Latin Authorities in the Confessio Amantis," SP 95 (1998): 1-40; esp. 29; see also Robert F. Yeager, "English Latin, and the Text as `Other': The Page as Sign in the Work of John Gower," Text 3 (1987): 251-67.

(69) On the topos see Curtius, European Literature, 407-13.

(70) Alexander Barclay, The Mirrour of Good Maners (London: John Cawood, 1570; repr. Manchester: Spenser Society, 1885), A2r; see also the Latin marginal glosses to the text.

(71) Translation by Echard, "With Carmen's Help," 32.

(72) Minnis, Medieval Theory, 189.

(73) It is pertinent to this discussion to note that Amans borrows rhetorical terms to describe his activities, eg at 1. 2726-31 or 2. 1962-65.

(74) "quodsi nulla contingit excusatio, sola colorem habet paenitentia" [when there is no other excuse, penitence can lend colour to a confession]: Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 11.1.81 (tr. Schmitz, "Rhetoric and Fiction," 125 n. 14).

(75) Barclay, The Mirrour of Good Maners, A2r.

(76) In May 1998, I was fortunate enough to be invited to read a paper in a session sponsored by the John Gower Society at the 33rd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University I am grateful to all those who listened and asked questions, and especially to David Wallace, whose comments inspired this research. I should also like to thank Robert Jones for drawing my attention to a number of crucial references, and Heike Bauer, Claire Jowitt and Sarah Prescott, who read drafts of this article.
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Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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