Gower Bibliography

Antimercantilism in Late Medieval English Literature

Ladd, Roger A. "Antimercantilism in Late Medieval English Literature." New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 ISBN 978-0-230-62043-8

Review

In "Antimercantilism in Late Medieval English Literature," Roger Ladd traces representations of merchants in later medieval English literature, "from the antimercantilism of William Langland's 'Piers Plowman' to the promercantile charity of the York Mercers' 'Last Judgement'" (157). Ladd is interested in the peculiar "ideological dialectic" of medieval merchants, "caught between the demands of their commerce and the church's skepticism of their financial practice" (20). The introductory chapter surveys some of the medieval and modern debates over the roles of merchants within communities, and grounds those theoretical debates in nods to historical mercantile figures such as Nicholas Brembre. Subsequent chapters are devoted to "Piers Plowman" (Chapter 2), Chaucer (Chapter 4), early fifteenth-century texts such as "The Book of Margery Kempe," "The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye," and the "Tale of Beryn" (Chapter 5), and the York Cycle (Chapter 6). Of particular interest to Gowerians is Ladd's third chapter, "The Mirour de l'Omme and Gower's London Merchants," in which Ladd suggests the poem is a kind of apologia for merchants. Ladd posits that "the poem's direct engagement with merchants' point of view suggests that Gower at least prepared for the possibility that merchants would read his poem" (50). The strength of Ladd's analysis stems from his interrogation of mercantile diction in the poem suggesting an audience that would "understand the business register" (54) at work, so to speak. For example, Ladd astutely examines Gower's use of terms such as "bargaign" or "essier" to foreground his critique of the merchants, and Ladd supports his analysis with deft references to documentary evidence in guild records and legal documents where such terms are used contemporaneously in the mercantile community. While these close readings are illuminating and crafty (pun intended), Ladd misses an opportunity to apply the import of such an argument to our understanding Gower's possible audiences. As Gower scholarship becomes more and more interested in the multilingual-nature of Gower's works, and of Gower's cultural environment, such studies can only further our understanding of who may have been reading Gower's non-English writings. While Ladd mentions briefly such debates over Gower's readership (and medieval readerly practices generally), his perceptive textual analysis would appear to have greater import on that issue than is covered. [BWG. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 35.2]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Language and Word Studies
Confessio Amantis

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