Gower and Sound
In rhetorical repetitions that adorn the Confessio Amantis's plain style, in the many references to animal noises in the Visio Anglie, in the bird song punctuating the lovers' speeches in the Cinkante Balades and more, the fourteenth-century poet John Gower shapes sounds and encourages an aural reception of his trilingual corpus. Just as Gower often argues for the preservation of knowledge and philosophies developed in the classical world, so it can be maintained that the phonics of his verse preserve a literary ecology: one in which repetitions reverberate with both Ciceronian and sermonic orations, animal noises recall Aesop's fables, and bird song evokes Virgil's sherpherds. Gower's choice to compose poems on similar topics in all three major languages of medieval England (English, Latin, and French) by itself proves a deep interest in poetic sound. This session will investigate the soundscapes created by Gower's multilingual rhetorical practices and assess their influence on an audience's aural connections to fictional worlds. We invite readings grounded in soundscape studies, ecocriticism, animal studies, performance theory, linguistics, rhetorical theory, and more that move scholarship forward on the production of sound in Gower's poems and on historical or contemporary ways of hearing them.
For presentation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, May 2018. Abstracts to Eve Salisbury by 15 September, 2017.