John Gower has been criticised for composing verse propaganda for the English state, in support of the regime of Henry IV, at the end of his distinguished career. However, as the author of this book shows, using evidence from Gower's English, French and Latin poems alongside contemporary state papers, pamphlet-literature, and other historical prose, Gower was not the only medieval writer to be so employed in serving a monarchy's goals. Professor Carlson also argues that Gower's late poetry is the apotheosis of the fourteenth-century tradition of state-official writing which lay at the origin of the literary Renaissance in Ricardian and Lancastrian England.
David R Carlson —
David Carlson is Professor in the Department of English, University of Ottawa.
Carlson, David R. John Gower, poetry and propaganda in fourteenth-century England. D. S. Brewer, 2012. 244p bibl index; ISBN 9781843843153. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.
This is a game-changing study of Gower's late political poetry, and the political agendas shaping literature in late-medieval England. Because Gower--Chaucer's friend that he was--was a major Latin and French as well as English poet, his work poses special challenges, not least because Gower's late Latin poetry supported the new Lancastrian regime so elegantly and fulsomely after the deposition of Richard II. Few scholars can handle Gower's copious Latin poetry and the political contexts so well as Carlson (Univ. of Ottawa), who traces a socioliterary lineage of Anglo-Latin political poets and then shows how Gower was at their forefront c. 1400, when a host of works display with suspicious harmony--perhaps under sophisticated administrative guidance--the arguments for the legitimacy of the new (usurping) King Henry IV. A world emerges of careful literary commemoration and growing capability for official state literary propaganda, confirmed by Carlson's exacting display of the official sources used. All this is capped, though, by evidence that Gower lost faith in this. An outstanding inquiry, blending source study, political criticism, and sensitive analyses of writings deemed undeserving of that, but here shown worth all literary scholars' close attention.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. -- A. Galloway, Cornell University