Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: A study of the sources of the Confessio amantis of John Gower
Author: Mainzer, H. C.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1968
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Chapter One concerns the framework of the poem. As a whole, it is based on confession of the seven cardinal sins and their species. Parallels to Grower's enumeration of the species of the seven sins and of remedial virtues are given from treatises of vices and virtues relating to penance and confession. It is concluded that Grower was enumerating the typical vices and virtues that; belong to confession. The influence of the procedure of confession on the presentation of the sins and on some details is then shown, and the confessor, Genius, is discussed. The classification of philosophy which makes up the framework of the seventh book is then examined. Gower's division of two of the main parts of philosophy into 'Theorique' and 'Practique', and his subdivision of these parts, conforms to type of division of philosophy known as 'Aristotelian' and is derived from the Tresor of Brunetto Latini. In Grower's classification, however, rhetoric is also a main part of philosophy, with the two subordinate species grammar and logic. One would have expected logic to dominate the trivium. A possible explanation of Grower's exaltation of rhetoric is that he was influenced by eulogistic statements concerning rhetoric found in works relating to the ars dictaminis. Examples of such statements are given. The five points of policy in the seventh book could have been derived from the Secretum Secretorum and from the De regimine principum of Aegidius Romanus. Chapter Two concerns sources of stories in the poem. All Gower's stories are 'ensamples' or exempla. In the first section of this chapter, a group of his stories is discussed with a view to ascertaining the influence of the exemplum. For convenience of treatment, the stories are divided into the following groups: classical, Biblical and miscellaneous. Details in some of these stories parallel those in exemplum versions, indicating that Gower made use of the exemplun. In the case of many of the stories, however, it is impossible to name a specific source, since they were so often repeated. Numerous classical stories in this group are the same as exampla in John of Wales' Breviloquium. In telling the same stories as in the Breviloquium Gower inherited a tradition which stems from the twelfth century humanism of John of Salisbury. The classical stories in this group circulated in second-hand versions, so that we need not assume Grower's knowledge of the less well-known classical texts* As regards Biblical stories, Gower used the Vulgate version of the Bible, but was probably also aware of exemplum versions. The influence of the exemplum on some of the miscellaneous stories is shown, though the existence of a story in an exemplum version need not preclude Gower's knowledge of a first-hand version of that story. In the second section of this chapter, some miscellaneous stories are discussed with a view to showing the range of Gower ! s narrative sources. The stories are arranged in the following groups: classical stories, stories connected with the Bible, medieval stories, stories paralleling those in The Seven Sages of Rome and the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo, and beast fables. Chapter Three concerns Gower's use of Ovid in the poem, in particular of the medieval Ovid. Parallel details show that he is likely to have known medieval versions of the Metamorphoses, namely the Ovide moralise, and the Ovidius moralizatus of Pierre Bersuire, and that he knew glossed texts of the Fasti and the Heroides. Chapter Four concerns sources of the pantheon in the fifth book of the poem. It is shown that Grower to a great extent supplemented Nachor's speech in Barlaam and Josaphat with medieval treatises concerning the pantheon. The treatises he probably used are the Poetarius of Alberic of London, the prologue to Pierre Bersuir' s Ovidius moralizatus, and Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum Gentilium. In the passage concerning the association of the gods with parts of the body, details suggest that he made use of the passages on this subject in the Historia de Preliis and Alexander B. Most of the description of the origin of idol worship parallels passages on the same subject in other works. The final chapter concerns sources of some medieval themes in the poem. First, the account of the four world empires in the Prologue is discussed. This whole passage is based on the concept of the 'translatio imperii'. Details of it parallel those in the Pantheon and Tresor, and Grower makes use of motifs traditionally associated with the Uheme of the four world empires. Secondly, the account of the fifteen stars, their stones and herbs is shown to be derived from the 'Tractatus Enoch'. Thirdly, some lists in the poem are discussed These are: from the fourth book, the list of discoverers and inventors and that of the first alchemists; from the sixth book, the list of authors of magic and their books and that of the authors of the science of agronomy; from the seventh book, the list of the first lawgivers. These lists are typical of those found in other medieval works. In the conclusion, Gower's testimony concerning his sources is first considered. His citation of authority does not necessarily imply his use of that authority. In this kind of citation, Grower was following a known literary convention of his day. Some of the books likely to have been used by Gower in writing the Confessio Amantis are then listed; the list is based on evidence brought to light in the course of this study. A man of Gower's means could not have afforded as large a library as represented by the books listed here. There are a considerable number of representative works in the list. From this it can be concluded that Grower had read widely in the literature current in his day.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sources