Gower Bibliography

Standardizing Lay Culture: Secularity in French and English Literature of the Fourteenth Century.

Minnis, Alastair J. "Standardizing Lay Culture: Secularity in French and English Literature of the Fourteenth Century." In The Beginnings of Standardization: Language and Culture in Fourteenth-Century England. Ed. Schaefer, Ursula. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2006, pp. 43-60. ISBN 9783631551066


With this essay, Minnis proposes to counterbalance the emphasis on "vernacular theology" in recent studies of late medieval culture by examining the ways "discourses of secular power" were becoming standardized by the late fourteenth century (44). To find these, he extends his terrain beyond the concept of an international court culture (as proposed by Gervase Mathew) to a broader "international lay culture" increasingly concerned with asserting the state's power over the church's power, an assertion particularly apparent in such works as Latini's "Livres dou Tresor, " Gower's seventh book of CA, Giles of Rome's "De regimine principum," the anonymous "Eschez amoureux" (along with Evrart de Conty's commentary), the Pseudo-Aristotelian "Economics," and Chaucer's "Knight's Tale," all of which apply Aristotle's practical philosophy to lay society, not just rulers. Central to this practical philosophy is "the Aristotelian vision of the active life as the virtuous life of man of society" (48). With their fundamentally secular objectives, these texts establish the family "as the basic economic unit," a means by which the reason can control the passions (50). Similarly, these texts also explore another secular virtue, magnificence, as a means by which a ruler brings order and civilized behavior to his people. These examples provide a starting point for studying the standardization of "crucial aspects of lay culture in vernacular literature" and for understanding that western Europeans shared more than religious interests (58). [CB. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 28.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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