Gower Out of Time and Place

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Surviving in more than 50 manuscript witnesses, John Gower’s Confessio amantis poses significant challenges for modern editors. Multiple languages and registers, several versions, and an intricately structured confessional dialogue are just some of the elements of the textual corpus of Gower’s poem that make it particularly striking that the most recent major new edition of the poem was completed at the end of the 19th century by G.C. Macaulay, with the early 2000s edition by Russell Peck being more of a revised edition than a completely new effort. This contribution proposes to explore the digital domain as a space that allows Gower’s poem and, by extension, other medieval texts, to be freed from limitations imposed by traditional critical editions. Focussing on examples taken from a range of manuscript witnesses, this contribution pays particular attention to the interplay between Latin and English, margin and column. Further, approaches to digital editing are explored in relation to the various versions of the poem, an aspect that has traditionally been represented in a strictly hierarchical way in critical editions of the poem. The proposition is that the poem’s intricate structure and layout across manuscript witnesses can be opened up for detailed and advanced study once the text and its witnesses are, quite literally, taken out of time and place. Digitisation, digital editing and text mining are at the core of this argument, suggesting ways in which the idea of Gower out of time and place opens up ways in which manuscripts can be freed from their physical repositories, in the process freeing the examination of Gower’s text from the temporal and physical confines of printed editions and physical manuscripts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-317
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Early online date21 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Aug 2018


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