Advertisement

The Weight of Experience: John Gower and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

  • Joel D. Anderson
Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

This chapter revolves around the Visio Anglie found in Book One of John Gower’s Vox Clamantis. Representing Gower’s poetic response to the Peasants’ Revolt, the Visio features a nightmarish dream vision in which throngs of rogue peasants are transformed first into common beasts and then into hybrid monsters. In contrast to scholars who have emphasized the mediated and detached character of the work, I argue that Gower’s dreamer inhabits a hyper-sensual world in which perception is extremely emotional, physical, and visceral. Images, words, and experiences weigh on the dreamer; they are materially and unforgettably imprinted in his mind and body. An opposing model of sensation and cognition governs the behavior of the monstrous peasants, who live in an ahistorical present in which exemplary words and experiences carry no weight. I suggest that even as the poem becomes more fantastic, allegorical, and abstracted, it also evokes a kind of “deep history” of the rebellion. It is an affective exemplum for England’s nobility to ponder, re-experience, and remember.

Bibliography

  1. Aers, David. 1999. Vox Populi and the Literature of 1381. In The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace, 432–53. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aquinas, Thomas. 1964–80. Summa Theologiae. Ed. Blackfriars. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  3. Biernoff, Suzannah. 2002. Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brinton, Thomas. 1954. The Sermons of Thomas Brinton, Bishop of Rochester: 1373–1389. Ed. Mary A. Devlin. London: Offices of the Royal Historical Society.Google Scholar
  5. Carlson, David R. 2008. Gower’s Beast Allegories in the 1381 Visio Angliae. Philological Quarterly 87: 257–275.Google Scholar
  6. Carruthers, Mary J. 2008. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. ———. 2013. The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cornelius, Ian. 2015. Gower and the Peasants’ Revolt. Representations 131 (1): 22–51.  https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2015.131.1.22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crane, Susan. 1992. The Writing Lesson of 1381. In Chaucer’s England: Literature in Historical Context. Ed. Barbara Hanawalt, 201–221. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  10. Curry, Walter Clyde. 1960. Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  11. De Lille, Alain. 1955. Anticlaudianus. Ed. Robert Bossuat. Paris: J. Vrin.Google Scholar
  12. Dobson, R.B. 1983. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Echard, Siân. 2003. Gower’s ‘bokes of Latin’: Language, Politics, and Poetry. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 25: 123–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fisher, John H. 1964. John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Galloway, Andrew. 1993. Gower in His Most Learned Role and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Mediaevalia 16: 329–347.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2010. Reassessing Gower’s Dream-Visions. In John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition, ed. Elisabeth M. Dutton, 288–303. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  17. Gower, John. 1902. The Complete Works of John Gower: The Latin Works. Ed. G.C. Macaulay. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 1962. The Major Latin Works of John Gower: The Voice of One Crying and the Tripartite Chronicle. Trans. Eric W. Stockton. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2005. The Minor Latin Works. Ed. and Trans. Robert F. Yeager. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2004–13. Confessio Amantis. Ed. Russell A. Peck. Trans. Andrew Galloway. 3 vols. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 2011. John Gower: Poems on Contemporary Events: The Visio Anglie (1381) and Cronica Tripertita (1400). Ed. David R. Carlson. Trans. A. G. Rigg. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.Google Scholar
  22. Groos, Arthur. 1995. Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram’s Parzival. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hsy, Jonathan. 2013. Blind Advocacy: Blind Readers, Disability Theory, and Accessing John Gower. Accessus 1 (1): Article 2.Google Scholar
  24. Justice, Steven. 1994. Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kobayashi, Yoshiko. 2009. The Voice of an Exile: From Ovidan Lament to Prophecy in Book I of John Gower’s Vox Clamantis. In Through a Classical Eye: Transcultural and Transhistorical Visions in Medieval English, Italian and Latin Literature in Honour of Winthrop Wetherbee, ed. Andrew Galloway and Robert F. Yeager, 343–380. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lears, Adin E. 2016. Noise, Soundplay, and Langland’s Poetics of Lolling in the Time of Wyclif. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 38: 165–200.  https://doi.org/10.1353/sac.2016.0005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McNamer, Sarah. 2007. Feeling. In Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English, ed. Paul Strohm, 241–257. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Nolan, Maura. 2011. The Poetics of Catastrophe: Ovidian Allusion in Gower’s Vox Clamantis. In Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature: Essays in Honour of Jill Mann, ed. Christopher Cannon and Maura Nolan, 113–333. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  29. Simpson, James. 1995. Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry: Alan of Lille’s Anticlaudianus and John Gower’s Confessio Amantis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Wickert, Maria. 1953. Studien zu John Gower. Köln: Kölner Universitäts-Verlag.Google Scholar
  31. Woolgar, C.M. 2006. The Senses in Late Medieval England. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel D. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of MaineOronoUSA

Personalised recommendations