Poetics of the Past, Politics of the Present
: Chaucer, Gower, and Old Books

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the poetics and politics of ‘olde bokes’ (Legend of Good Women, G, 25) in selected works by Chaucer and Gower, paying particular attention to the way in which both writers appropriate their sources and the theories of history and political ideas informing these appropriations. It argues that Chaucer eschews metanarratives in his appropriations of the past and its writings, emphasising the multiplicity of voices that are contained in written discourse across time. In contrast, Gower, while acknowledging the presence of multiple voices, appropriates the writings of the past in an attempt to arrive at a harmonised poetic voice of his own. These poetics of the past result in different politics of the present in both writers’ works. While Gower’s politics are generally nostalgic and conservative, Chaucer is apolitical and primarily interested in the processes of political discourse. In this respect, Gower is a writer who strives to make sense of history and tradition and formulate poignant political statements in the face of contemporary struggles, whereas Chaucer does not offer unambiguous statements, but rather creates a multi-facetted poetic voice that highlights the reasons why such statements are impossible to achieve in the face of discursive heterogeneity.
Date of Award07 Nov 2005
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPatricia Diane Watt (Supervisor) & Claire Elaine Jowitt (Supervisor)


  • Chaucer
  • Gower

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