Much scholarship on Gower’s Confessio Amantis has focused on the poem’s assertion that poetic narration, represented by Amans’ ongoing confession, has the ability to restore the fragmentary natures of social and spiritual bodies. Surprisingly, the role that the (dis)abled body plays in the poem’s struggle with fragmentation and integration has been ignored. By focusing on the poem’s representation of blindness in the tales of Medusa and Constance, I will demonstrate that the formal structure and thematic explorations of the Confessio, in fact, rely upon the (dis)abled body and its inextricable relationship to narration. Indeed, it is Amans’ disabling illness that inaugurates the poem and provides Gower with the vehicle through which to critique the fractured body politic of fourteenth-century England, and it is only through the act of narration that both bodies may be “cured.”
Using modern and medieval disability scholarship, this paper will posit that the poem’s reliance on a topos of disability that creates a “problem” that the poem must then attempt to unify. In particular, the poem fixates on blindness, linking physical and metaphorical blindness to sin, and thus division, and its cure to unification. In the Confessio, this cure is contingent upon the act of confession, of providing a story that unifies the “trouble” of the deviant body. As a result, Gower asserts the poet as the rememberer and re-memberer of bodies spiritual, social, and physical.
Thank you to Edward Wheatley for his thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this essay. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers of Accessus, whose comments were invaluable to shaping the essay into its final form.
Pearman, Tory Vandeventer
"Blindness, Confession, and Re-membering in Gower's Confessio,"
Accessus: Vol. 1
, Article 3.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/accessus/vol1/iss1/3