Fictions of Advice
The Literature and Politics of Counsel in Late Medieval EnglandUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Anniversary Collection Anniversary Collection
Fictions of Advice historicizes the late medieval mirrors (or handbooks) for princes to reveal how the ambiguities and contradictions characteristic of the genre are responses to—as well as attempts to manage—the risks implicit in advising a king.
Often thought of as moralizing advice unable to engage political conflicts, the mirrors for princes have been taken for dull and conventionalized testimonies to the medieval taste for platitude. Judith Ferster maintains that advice was at the center of one of the important political debates in the late Middle Ages: how to constrain the king and allow for his subjects' participation. Fictions of Advice rereads the English mirrors for princes to show how their moralizing was often highly topical and even subversive. Although overtly deferential to the rulers they address, the mirrors' authors were surprisingly capable of criticism and opposition.
In putting the texts back into their historical contexts, Ferster reveals the vital cultural and political function they fulfilled in their societies.
2. The Context for Literature: Public Discourse in the Late Middle Ages
3. The Secretum Secretorum and the Governance of Kings
4. The Secretum Secretorum in Ireland
5. Council, Counsel, and the Politics of Advice
6. Chaucer's Tale of Melibee: Advice to the King and Advice to the King's Advisers
7. O Political Gower
8. A Mirror for the Prince of Wales: Hoccleve's Regement of Princes
9. Machiavelli's Prince