"Reading and Interpretation in Confessio Amantis" - III John Gower International Congress - Deadline 15 June 2013

full name / name of organization: 
Jeff Stoyanoff / Duquesne University
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The III John Gower Congress will take place at the University of Rochester in New York from 30 June to 3 July 2014.

John Gower’s Confessio Amantis frames numerous stories within the framing narrative of Amans’s education by Genius. Genius shares the story with Amans to exemplify some trait or other of sin and then asks Amans if he is guilty of such transgression before hearing his confession. Clearly, the narratives that Genius presents serve on one level this didactic purpose - the education of the aging lover, Amans. However, what happens if the reader ignores Genius’s explanation? Despite the fact that Genius aims to instruct Amans (and, subsequently, the reader), there is a real possibility that the reader may ignore the didactic gloss and arrive at another interpretation. The Prologus admits as much, noting to “eschue / That wikkid is, and do the goode” (458-59) before concluding “Bot yet betwen ernest and game / Ful ofte it torneth other wise” (462-63). In other words, the prologue to the poem voices the anxiety that people do not do what is good for them even though they are warned of the dangers of sin. Genius warns Amans throughout the poem of the necessity of freeing himself from sin so that he may be admitted to Venus’s court, but unlike Amans the reader is free to interpret Genius’s narratives outside of the didactic frame.

This panel seeks to engage those moments of interpretation within the poem as well as moments of authorial anxiety attempting to impose a reading. Is there a space afforded in the poem for alternative interpretations to those of Genius? If so, does this interpretive freedom subvert the didactic lesson of a given tale, resulting in the opposite of its intended effect? Do the lessons that Genius intends to teach through these narratives to Amans rely on an interpretive framework that has long since past this (then) current world “stant al reversed”? (Pr.30).

Submissions that address any facet of the interplay between the text, reader, and interpretation within Confessio Amantis are welcome for consideration. Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words and contact information to Jeff Stoyanoff at stoyanoffj@duq.edu. Deadline for submissions is 15 June 2013.

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