Approaches to Teaching the Poetry of John Gower

  • Editors: R. F. Yeager, Brian W. Gastle
  • Pages: viii & 236 pp.
  • Published: 2011
  • ISBN: 9781603291002 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781603290999 (Cloth)
Approaches to Teaching the Poetry of John Gower Cover

“The essays are clearly written and, because of their range, contain something of interest to any instructor, whether one at a community college or at a major research institution, whether one interested in traditional literary criticism or its more recent manifestations.”

—Tim William Machan, Marquette University

A poet who wrote fluently in Middle English, Anglo-French, and Latin, John Gower typifies the English Middle Ages. His economical and sober style, the topics he addressed—marriage, love, chivalry, social class, law, and religious faith—and the depth and breadth of his references to earlier literature, myth, and folktale made his work attractive not only to contemporaries such as Chaucer but also to later poets such as Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. Gower is increasingly acknowledged as a poet whose texts offer unique opportunities to teachers wishing to introduce their students to the riches of medieval literature and culture.

The essays in part 1, “Materials,” review the available editions and translations of Gower’s works, compile useful electronic resources for teaching, and discuss the sources and analogues and critical work on his canon. In part 2, “Approaches,” contributors make recommendations for teaching the historical context of Gower’s writing, involving topics from estates theory and law to confession and medicine; for examining his language and rhetoric in the classroom, including reading his work aloud; and for studying his works in various theoretical and comparative ways, with a special focus on his relation to classical as well as other Middle English authors. A final section considers the various classroom contexts in which Gower is taught, from community college to graduate school.

Peter G. Beidler
Craig E. Bertolet
Andreea Boboc
María Bullón-Fernández
Susannah M. Chewning
Joyce Coleman
James M. Dean
Georgiana Donavin
Siân Echard
Erick Kelemen
Leonard Koff
Steven F. Kruger
Scott Lightsey
Carole Lynn McKinney
J. Allan Mitchell
Peter Nicholson
James M. Palmer
S. Elizabeth Passmore
Derek Pearsall
Russell A. Peck
Winthrop Wetherbee

 Introduction: Gower in Context (1)

R. F. Yeager and Brian W. Gastle

PART ONE: MATERIALS

Texts for Teaching (7)

Russell A. Peck

The Instructor’s Library (17)

Peter Nicholson

Electronic Resources (26)

Brian W. Gastle

PART TWO: APPROACHES

Historical Approaches and Context

Teaching Gower’s Reception: A Poet for All Ages (31)

Derek Pearsall

Social Class in the Classroom: Gower’s Estates Poetry (36)

Scott Lightsey

Teaching the Confessio Amantis as a Humanist Document of the First English Renaissance (42)

Russell A. Peck

Bodily and Spiritual Healing through Conversation and Storytelling: Genius as Physician and Confessor in the Confessio Amantis (53)

James M. Palmer

Teaching Gower and the Law (59)

Andreea Boboc

Language, Literature, and Rhetoric

Teaching Gower Aloud (67)

Joyce Coleman

Hearing Gower’s Rhetoric (77)

Georgiana Donavin

Gower before Chaucer: Teaching Narrative and Ethics in “The Tale of Tereus” (83)

Leonard Koff

Gower’s Triple Tongue (1): Teaching across Gower’s Languages (91)

Siân Echard

Gower’s Triple Tongue (2): Teaching the Balades (100)

R. F. Yeager

Learning Gower by Editing Gower (104)

Erick Kelemen

Theoretical Approaches

Teaching Gower’s Liminal Literature and Critical Theory (110)

J. Allan Mitchell

Gender, Sexuality, and Family Ties in the Confessio Amantis (119)

María Bullón-Fernández

Postcolonial/Queer: Teaching Gower Using Recent Critical Theory (127)

Steven F. Kruger

Comparative Approaches

Gower and The Canterbury Tales: The Enticement to Fraud (136)

Craig E. Bertolet

The Hag Transformed: “The Tale of Florent,” Ethical Choice, and Female Desire in Late Medieval England (143)

James M. Dean

Teaching “The Tale of Constance” in Context (159)

R. F. Yeager

Gower Teaching Ovid and the Classics (172)

Winthrop Wetherbee

Specific Classroom Contexts

Gower in the Community College Curriculum (180)

Carole Lynn McKinney

Chaucer by Default? Difficult Choices and Teaching the Sophomore British Literature Survey (188)

Susannah M. Chewning

Teaching Gower in the Medieval Survey Class: Historical and Cultural Contexts and the Court of Richard II (194)

S. Elizabeth Passmore

Gower in Seminar: The Confessio Amantis as Publishing Opportunity for Graduate Students (202)

Peter G. Beidler

Notes on Contributors (209)

Survey Participants (213)

Works Cited (215)

Index (233)