Gower and Langland: Ethics, Politics, Aesthetics

Winter 2016-2017


Mark Miller

Both Gower and Langland are centrally concerned with developing literary forms that give expression to moral and political demands. For this reason, both are determinedly anti-moralistic, troubling the terms in which such demands might be formulated. This course focuses on the questions of how moral and political claims and problems are represented, and what is thereby lost or repressed. “Representation” here points us towards aesthetics, in the sense that close attention to literary form is essential to making out how these questions emerge in the texts of Gower and Langland. But we will also attend to the broader senses in which figuration and formalization are at issue in psychic and social representation, and therefore in the ways that the dimensions of the moral and the political emerge and are foreclosed, whether literarily or otherwise. Our main texts will be John Gower’s Confessio Amantis and William Langland’s The Vision of Piers Plowman. Writing for the course will include regular Chalk postings, a short (3-page) paper and a longer (15-page) final paper. (Med/Ren)