This article discusses the use of the legal maxim necessity knows no law in the works of William Langland and John Gower. Whereas Langland’s usage has stirred up great controversy, Gower’s unique application of the canon law adage has received hardly any attention. On the surface, it is difficult to think of two authors less alike, and the way in which they relate the concept of necessity to different subjects (the poverty debate, fin amour) seems to support that feeling. Yet this article argues that reading Langland and Gower side by side is mutually illuminating. Specifically, this article reveals how their engagement with natural law challenges post-modern assumptions that inform the comparative study of law and literature. By reading Langland and Gower in relation to the provocative work of Giorgio Agamben, this article suggests that whereas critics traditionally prefer the exception to the law, authors like Gower seek to include the exception within the juridical order.
van Dijk, Conrad J.
"“Nede hath no law”: The State of Exception in Gower and Langland,"
Accessus: Vol. 2
, Article 2.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/accessus/vol2/iss2/2