John Gower and the Limits of the Law.

Author/Editor
Van Dijk, Conrad.

Title
John Gower and the Limits of the Law.

Published
Van Dijk, Conrad. John Gower and the Limits of the Law. Publications of the John Gower Society VIII. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013. ISBN 9781843843504.

Review
This monograph, revised from the author's 2007 University of Western Ontario dissertation, establishes a solid grounding for the law as an important component of Gower's thinking, through close readings of moments in the Confessio Amantis (primarily) his other major works, and some of the less-read ones, as well. Van Dijk resists the argument that we can settle the question of Gower's pre-retirement career on the basis of his poetic content and style, but along the way he does provide as deft a discussion of the Gower-as-lawyer question as one can reasonably expect, barring additional evidence on the subject. Van Dijk neither rules out nor insists upon identifying Gower as a lawyer, but along the way he makes it very clear that Gower was intimately familiar with the workings and discourse of the legal profession. Using that familiarity as a guide, van Dijk analyzes the genres of the exemplum and the legal case, which he sees as similar in key ways. Though many readings of the Confessio have focused on its construction of exempla, van Dijk argues effectively (without investing too much in the notion of stable literary forms) that the case as a form is sometimes a best match for Gower's didactic stories. In the following chapter, on "legal questions" in the Confessio, van Dijk interrogates what sorts of legal issues Gower may have been exploring.
The later chapters explore in depth notions of kingship and justice. This allows van Dijk to engage with a variety of central issues in Gower scholarship (such as Gower's sense of balance between royal authority and the rule of law). Each chapter focuses around an important concept," regalie," "equite," and retributive justice, respectively, and each covers solid ground, including in-depth examinations of Books II and VII, as well as the "Cronica Tripertita." Though Van Dijk carefully avoids totalizing readings that would overstate the connection between the ideas raised in these chapters, he does effectively argue for how past readings of legal and political issues in Gower's work have been able to base such different conclusions on the same literary work. [RAL. Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 36.2]

Date
2013

Gower Subjects
Background and General Criticism
Confessio Amantis
Cronica Tripertita