The Man of Law’s Tale: Sovereign Abandonment of the Subject

  • William McClellan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Using Agamben’s theory of sovereign abandonment, this chapter challenges the recent critical discourse on the Man of Law’s Tale and argues that Chaucer probes the sovereign’s desertion of the subject. Agamben contends that while the sovereign demands obedience from the subject, he does not reciprocate by protecting her but instead forsakes her. This exclusion from the law of the sovereign does not free the subject from the control of law but paradoxically makes her liable to be harmed or killed by others, exposing her to suffering and destitution. Agamben’s political theory provides a framework for the analysis of how Chaucer’s tale graphically depicts the destructive effects on the subject resulting from the sovereign’s abandonment.


Agamben’s theory of abandonment Sovereign abandonment of subject Subject’s exclusion from law Destructive effects of exclusion 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • William McClellan
    • 1
  1. 1.Baruch College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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