It has long been thought that John Gower was probably a lawyer before turning to poetry, and this study reveals his active engagement with contemporary legal debates; they include constitutional questions, jurisdictional issues, private vengeance, jurisprudential concepts (such as equity and the rigor iuris), and aspects of criminal law. The author argues that the Confessio Amantis in particular demonstrates Gower's uncertainty about how to reconcile the ideal of a just law with alternative modes of justice, such as self-help, royal discretion, and divine will. The book also examines the parallel development of the exemplum and casus in medieval literature. Exempla frequently create a sense of narrative closure by means of some form of punishment, or as Gower would put it, "vengeance". How then do we set Gower's reputation as a sympathetic writer alongside his frequent desire for closure and punishment? What are the limits of exemplarity and law? These questions are answered by reading Gower in relation to the volatile politics of the Ricardian period, and in comparison with the poetic concerns of contemporary writers such as Chaucer and Langland. In so doing, the book provides a searching introduction to the intersection between literature and law in the late fourteenth century. Dr. Conrad van Dijk is Assistant Professor of English at Concordia University College of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada).
Subjects: Language & Literature
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