ENGL 534: Piers Plowman (F2014)

A study of Piers Plowman, a poem probably authored by William Langland in three versions between the 1360s and about 1390. We read the earliest and latest of these versions. Simultaneously, we make studies of the poem’s form and languages; place in literary history; genetic development; manuscript and early print circulation; discursive modes; and its thought on such topics as law, gender, political economy, theology, education, and the church.

The course schedule:

Week 1 [introductions]

Robert Crowley’s prefatory epistle to the 1550 editio princeps

Week 2 [a crash course]

Piers Plowman A (Vaughan, ed., 2011), entire.

Piers Plowman B (Schmidt, ed.), prologue

G. Kane, “Langland, William (c.1325–c.1390), poet” (2004)

H. Barr, “Major episodes and moments” (in the Cambridge Companion to ‘Piers Plowman‘ [henceforthCC‘], 2014)

[Also useful: Alford, “The Design of the Poem” (1988); Kane, “The Text” (1988); Kerby-Fulton, “Piers Plowman” (1999); Simpson, Piers Plowman: An Introduction (2007); Galloway, Penn Commentary, vol. 1 (2006); Steiner, Reading Piers Plowman (2013) — full references for these items are available in this zotero bibliography]

Week 3 [literary history, poetic form]

Piers Plowman C (Pearsall, ed.) [henceforth PP-C’], prologue and passus 1

Winner and Waster (Turville-Petre, ed., 1989)

R. Hanna, “The versions and revisions” (CC, 2014)

S. Justice, “Literary history” (CC, 2014)

S. Barney, “Langland’s Mighty Line” (2001)

[Also useful: Pearsall, Old and Middle English Poetry (1977); Turville-Petre, Alliterative Revival (1977); Kane, “Music ‘neither unpleasant nor monotonous’” (1981); Turville-Petre, “The Prologue of Wynnere and Wastoure” (1987); Lawton, “Alliterative Style” (1988); Cable, The English Alliterative Tradition (1991); Turville-Petre, “Wynnere and Wastoure: When and Where?” (1994); Hanna, “Defining Middle English Alliterative Poetry” (1995); Hanna, “Alliterative Poetry” (1999); Chism, Alliterative Revivals (2002); Putter, Jefferson, and Stokes, Studies in the Metre of Alliterative Verse (2007); Putter and Jefferson, ed., Approaches to the Metres (2009); Cable, “Progress in Middle English Alliterative Metrics” (2009); Weiskott, “Phantom Syllables” (2013)]

Week 4 [legal fictions / histories of gender]

PP-C, passus 2-4 (“Meed the Maid”)

J. Simpson, Piers Plowman: An Introduction, Ch. 2 (2007)

J. Alford, Piers Plowman: A Glossary of Legal Diction, “Introduction” (1988)

E. Fowler, “Civil Death and the Maiden” (1995)

[Also useful: Baldwin, Theme of Government (1981); Baldwin, “The Historical Context” (1988); Cooper, “Gender and Personification” (1991); Tavormina, Kindly Similitude (1995); Galloway, Penn Commentary, vol. 1 (2006)]

Week 5 [manuscripts and circulation]

[We meet in Beinecke library RM 39 and examine MSS Osborn fa45 and Takamiya 23, sixteenth-century prints, and a selection of other books: Osborn a13, Osborn a55, and Beinecke 1086.]

S. Horobin, “Manuscripts and readers” (CC, 2014)

A. Middleton, “The Audience and Public” (1982)

A. Hudson, “The Legacy” (1988)

R. Hanna, “Studies in the Manuscripts” (1993) [pp. 1-14 only, on Osborn fa45]

[Also useful: Doyle, “Remarks on Surviving Manuscripts” (1986); Kane, “The Text” (1988); Samuels, “Dialect and Grammar” (1988); Hanna, William Langland (1993); Hanna, Pursuing History (1996); Kerby-Fulton and Justice, “Langlandian Reading Circles” (1997); Benson and Blanchfield, The manuscripts of Piers Plowman: the B-version (1997); The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive (2000- ); Kerby-Fulton, “Women Readers” (2003); Galloway, “Reading Piers Plowman” (2004); Horobin, “‘In London and in Opeland’” (2005); Hailey, “Robert Crowley” (2008); Hanna, Introducing English medieval book history (2013)]

Week 6 [the reflexive turn: literature and self-writing]

PP-C passus 5 (“Apologia and the Sermon of Reason”)

PP-B passus 12 [lines 1-34 only]

A. Middleton, “Acts of Vagrancy” (1997)

R. Adams, “The Rokeles” (CC, 2014)

N. Zeeman, “Piers Plowman in Theory” (CC, 2014)

[Also useful: Kane, Evidence for Authorship (1965); Middleton “William Langland’s Kynde Name” (1990); Clopper, “Need Men and Women Labor?” (1992); Justice and Kerby-Fulton, eds., Written Work (1997); Simpson, “Power of Impropriety” (2001); Adams, Langland and the Rokele family (2013)]

Week 7 [subject, discourse, genre, mode]

PP-C passus 6-7 (“Confession of Sins”; “Shriving of the Folk”; “Piers Plowman’s Guide to Truth”)

D. Lawton, “The Subject of Piers Plowman” (1987)

R. Hanna, “Speculum vitae and the form of Piers Plowman” (2013)

J. Mann, “Allegory” (CC, 2014)

[Also useful: Salter, Piers Plowman: an introduction (1967/1988); Aers, Piers Plowman and Christian Allegory (1975); Middleton, “Narration and the Invention of Experience” (1982); Justice, “Genres of Piers Plowman” (1988); Barney, “Allegorical Visions” (1988); Wenzel, “Medieval Sermons” (1988); Yunck, “Satire” (1988); Smith, Book of the Incipit (2001); Mann “Langland and Allegory” (2010); Wood, Conscience and the Composition (2012)]

Week 8 [political economy]

PP-C, passus 8-9 (“Ploughing the Half-Acre”; “Pardon”)

D. Pearsall, “Poverty and Poor People in Piers Plowman” (1988) [pdf]

R.W. Frank, “The ‘Hungry Gap,’ Crop Failure, and Famine” (1990)

C. Dyer, “Piers Plowman and Plowmen” (1994)

[also useful: Hilton, The English Peasantry (1975); Aers, “Piers Plowman: Poverty, Work, and Community” (1988); Dyer, Standards of living (1989); Justice, Writing and Rebellion (1993); Pearsall, “Piers Plowman and the Problem of Labour” (2000); Dyer, Making a Living (2003); Scott, Piers Plowman and the Poor (2004)]

Week 9 [institutions of learning]

PP-C passus 10-14 (“Friars, Thought and Wit”; “Study, Clergy and Rechelesnesse”; cont’d.; “Mirror of Middle-Earth”; “Imaginatif”)

R. Hanna, “Literacy, schooling, universities” (2011)

A. Cole and A. Galloway, “Christian philosophy” (CC, 2014)

C. Cannon, “From Literacy to Literature” (2014)

[also useful: Middleton, “Two Infinites” (1972); Courtenay, Schools and Scholars (1987); Adams, “Langland’s Theology” (1988); Alford, Guide to the Quotations (1992); Galloway, “Piers Plowman and the Schools” (1992); Galloway, “Rhetoric of Riddling” (1995); Cobban, English University Life (1999); Hanna, “School and Scorn” (2000); Orme, Medieval Schools (2006); Mann, “‘He knew not Catoun’” (2006); Lawler, “Langland Versificator” (2011)]

Week 10 [commentary]

[Traugott Lawler will visit our seminar for a portion of this session, to discuss his volume of The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman.]

PP-C passus 15-17 (“Feast of Patience and the Meeting with Activa Vita”; “Patience and Liberum Arbitrium”; “Liberum Arbitrium on Charity and the Church”)

T. Lawler, “Conscience’s Dinner” (1995)

T. Lawler, from the Penn Commentary, passus 17

J. Mann, “Some Observations on ‘Structural Annotation’” (2011)

[Also useful: Minnis and Scott, Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism (1988); Middleton, “Life in the Margins” (1990); Lawler, “Medieval Annotation” (1991); Hanna, “Annotating Piers Plowman” (1994); Hanna, “The Practice of Annotation” (1996); Galloway, “Non-Literary Commentary” (2011); Cole, “Commentaries on Unknown Texts” (2011)]

Week 11 [multilingual text]

PP-C passus 18-20 (“Tree of Charity and the Meeting with Faith”; “Hope and the Good Samaritan”; “Crucifixion and the Harrowing of Hell”)

H. Barr, “The Use of Latin Quotations” (1986)

T. Lawler, “Langland Translating” (2013)

A. Putter, “Code-Switching in Langland, Chaucer and the Gawain Poet” (2011)

[Also useful: Alford, “Role of the Quotations” (1977); Alford, Guide to the Quotations (1992); Machan, “Language Contact in Piers Plowman” (1994); Wenzel, Macaronic Sermons (1994); Trotter, ed., Multilingualism in Later Medieval Britain (2000); Halmari and Adams, “On the Grammar and Rhetoric of Language Mixing” (2002); Lawler, “William Langland” (2005); Burrow, “Languages of Medieval England” (2005); Wright, “Languages of Medieval Britain” (2007); Archibald, “Macaronic Poetry” (2010); Schendl and Wright, ed., Code-switching in early English (2011); Murdoch, “Textual Fluidity” (2012); Jefferson and Putter, eds., Multilingualism in medieval Britain (2013); Warner, “Latinitas et communitas” (2014)]

Week 12 [salvation history]

PP-C passus 21-22 (“Founding of Holy Church”; “Coming of the Antichrist”)

S. Barney, Penn Commentary [selections] (2006)

J. Simpson, “Religious Forms and Institutions” (CC, 2014)

S. Akbari, “The non-Christians” (CC, 2014)

Week 13

This week was left open at the beginning of the semester. We decided to read S. Justice and K. Kerby-Fulton, eds., Written Work: Langland, Labor, and Authorship (1997).

Week 14

Seminar mini-conference; each seminar participant delivers a 15-minute paper presentation.

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