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Lordship and LiteratureJohn Gower and the Politics of the Great Household$
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Elliot Kendall

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199542642

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199542642.001.0001

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Courtly Love and the Lordship of Venus

Courtly Love and the Lordship of Venus

(p.99) 4 Courtly Love and the Lordship of Venus
Lordship and Literature

Elliot Kendall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The second of two chapters on the Confessio Amantis frame narrative, this chapter analyses political dimensions of courtly love and the relationship between Venus, Cupid, Genius and Amans, or the lover, in Gower's poem. First, it argues that Gower laicizes penitential discourse in his technical but minimally ecclesiastic representation of confession and of Genius as confessor, which crucially embeds confession in an allegorical, great household narrative of lay lordship and petitioning. The chapter is principally dedicated to interpretation of the poem's closing scenes, in which Venus can be seen to act as the lover's good lord, to bestow on him a livery collar, and to overmatch Cupid's unilateral lordship at the climax of the poem's contest between ‘magnificence’ and ‘reciprocalism’. Venus's and Cupid's politics are illuminated by readings of The Romance of the Rose, Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls and Legend of Good Women, and Sir John Clanvowe's Boke of Cupide.

Keywords:   Clanvowe, Confessio Amantis, confession, Cupid, Genius, Legend of Good Women, livery, lordship, Parliament of Fowls, Venus

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