A ground-breaking approach to the politics of late medieval texts, Lordship and Literature investigates the importance of the great household to late fourteenth-century English culture and society. A sustained new reading of John Gower's major English poem, Confessio Amantis, shows how deeply the great household informed the way Gower and his contemporaries imagined their world. Exploring royal government and gentry ambitions, this thoroughly interdisciplinary book views the period's politics and literature in terms of a household-based economy of power. The great household rode immense political shockwaves in the late fourteenth century, when royal aggrandizement and economic crisis in the wake of the Black Death challenged dominant modes of aristocratic power. Lordship and Literature examines responses to these challenges, analysing texts including the Appeal of the Merciless Parliament, imagination of lordly power by Chaucer, Gower, and Clanvowe, and parliamentary controversy over livery and justice. The economics of power-described by thinkers such as Pierre Bourdieu and Marcel Mauss-spans Ricardian political and literary culture, informing elite politics and love allegory alike. Competing models of household politics, and their literary force, are revealed here in wide-ranging interpretations of exchange (of women, hospitality, livery, loyalty, retribution) in Gower's complex and influential poem.
Lordship and Literature locates Confessio Amantis firmly in its historical moment, arguing that the poem belongs to a powerful yet embattled aristocratic politics.