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 nineteenth century by G.C. Macaulay, with the early 2000’s edition by Russell Peck arguably being closer to a revision than a completely new effort. This article explores the ways in which the poem itself constructs queer temporalities, both within its frame narrative and in the confessional dialogue between Genius and Amans. These queer temporalities are further complicated by variations across manuscript witnesses, and this article examines a specific case in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 35 that cuts across and flattens the queer temporalities that are found in the majority of manuscript witnesses. 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 by a queer approach to editing. Such an approach would embrace the queer temporalities of the poem itself by liberating 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 statusPublished - 01 Sept 2018


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