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'The word this worldes cause entriketh': Negotiating Fallen Signs in John Gower's Confessio Amantis
This thesis argues that the Confessio Amantis is a study in the inadequacy of language and its constructs. It asserts that, like his fourteenth-century contemporary authors, Gower explores the mutable condition of language, the ambiguity of the sign, and the difficulties surrounding interpretation. This thesis is shaped by a combination of two things ? ground-breaking new biographical evidence and a radical reassessment of the intellectual and philosophical framework of the Confessio Amantis. I have discovered a heretofore unknown life-record in the archives that centrally places Gower in the murky and unstable world of medieval diplomacy. My research, first and foremost, builds on this transformative archival discovery and, therefore, my original contention is that Gower?s poetics is personally informed by this experiential engagement in the linguistically unreliable world of diplomacy and negotiations. My second key innovation is to examine the Confessio and Gower?s understanding of language through the lens of Augustinian sign theory. There has been no critical application of Augustinian thought to Gower?s Confessio Amantis, or his poetics in general. I offer an in-depth study of Augustine?s semiotic hermeneutics evident throughout almost all his works. From this, I conclude that Gower, like Augustine, evinces a deep suspicion of the ability of the external sign (verbal, textual, visual, and aural) to signify reality and truth adequately. To show this, I offer a new analysis of Gower?s section on ?Rhetoric? and the verbal sign in Book VII; his segment, in Book IV, on the history of the founders of written language, arts, and civilization; his protracted passage on the golden age lost art of alchemy also occurring in Book IV; and a study of the frame of the poem where I demonstrate that Gower, like Augustine, privileges the non-verbal and the poem?s denouement consciously guides the reader to reject the external entirely and, instead, turn inward toward the self to embrace the inner silence of truth.
Keyword(s): Poetry; Medieval Literature; Theology; Philosophy; Semiotics; History
Publication Date:
Type: Doctoral thesis
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Citation(s): FLETCHER, CLARE, 'The word this worldes cause entriketh': Negotiating Fallen Signs in John Gower's Confessio Amantis, Trinity College Dublin.School of English.ENGLISH, 2018
Publisher(s): Trinity College Dublin. School of English. Discipline of English
Supervisor(s): O'Connell, Brendan
First Indexed: 2018-03-30 06:10:12 Last Updated: 2018-03-30 06:10:12