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Accessus Accessus - “Nede hath no law”: The State of Exception in Gower and “Nede hath no law”: The State of Exception in Gower and Langland Langlan

1 “Nede hath no law”: The State of Exception in Gower and Langland Conrad van Dijk Concordia University of Edmonton, conrad.vandyk@concordia.ab.ca In his book State of Exception, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben traces the idea of the exception of the law from Roman law to the modern state. In the process, he touches on the maxim necessity has no law (necessitas legem non habet), an adage that suggests that in exceptional circumstances the law is temporarily suspended. Agamben argues that in the Middle Ages this maxim was used only to “justify a single, specific case of transgression by means of an exception.”1 Aquinas, for instance, suggests that the sovereign may grant dispensations from the law. Gratian discusses anomalies where the Mass is performed in an unconsecrated place, or where a person has been made a bishop but is subsequently discovered to be unsuitable. Such examples show that the argument from necessity was used only in exceptional circumstances:  

Necessity is not a source of law, nor does it properly suspend the law; it merely releases a particular case from the literal application of the norm . . . . What is at issue here is clearly not a status or situation of the juridical order as such (the state of exception or necessity); rather, in each instance it is a question of a particular case in which the vis and ratio of the law find no application.21. Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 24. 2. Ibid., 25. [https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=accessus]

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