Gower's Queer Poetics in the Mirour de l'Omme

In the Mirour de l’Omme John Gower describes the allegorical Sins as both deceitful and “hermafrodrite” and later confesses to having engaged in queer practices in his earlier courtly poetry. Gower’s confession and his association of the Sins with intersexuality, I will argue, do not entail ultimately a rejection of queer poetics. In his Life of the Virgin Mary, the final part of the Mirour, Gower deploys a different kind of queer poetics, one that acknowledges the indeterminacies of language but still seeks to stabilize meaning, while intertwining male and female.


I would like to thank J. Allan Mitchell for his generous and insightful response to an early version of this article. My thanks also to two anonymous peer reviewers for their thorough and constructive feedback and to Georgiana Donavin and Eve Salisbury for their expert editing suggestions.