Piers Plowman: An Introduction

BookPiers Plowman: An Introduction

Piers Plowman: An Introduction

Second, revised edition

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies

2007

October 5th, 2007

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This book provides an accessible, concise and intellectually stimulating introduction and guide to one of the richest, most challenging poems of pre-Reformation English. New to the internationally-renowned "Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies" series, James Simpson's indispensable guide to Piers Plowman has been fully revised for this reissue. As any teacher of the poem knows, teaching Piers Plowman is massively facilitated by a reliable introductory guide providing both information and interpretation. This book does just that. Its main aim is to demonstrate to undergraduate readers the centrality of Piers Plowman in any account of the literary and cultural history of the later English Middle Ages. Piers Plowman's principal project is the re-imagination of a vernacular Church; the text questions the culture within which it is anchored and moves towards an active re-imagination of social and religious institutions. Simpson's book demonstrates how the poem's historical significance is embedded in its formal choices. This is a truly introductory guide to Piers Plowman notable for its clarity, its intellectual subtlety and its originality. Piers Plowman is a key medieval undergraduate text, both for its literary value and its religious significance. This full revision of the book incorporates the best new scholarship on Piers since the original 1990 edition.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Contents6
Preface to the Second Edition8
Introduction10
Approaching Piers Plowman10
The poem and its author11
Langland’s immediate poetic context15
‘Discourse’23
Schematic structure of poem24
Chapter 1. The First Vision: Prologue and Passus I25
Introduction26
Literary ‘truthe’26
Theological ‘truthe’33
Social ‘truthe’38
Conclusion43
Chapter 2. The First Vision: Passus II–IV45
Introduction46
Personification allegory46
Mede and social ‘truthe’54
Mede and legal ‘truthe’57
Conclusion63
Chapter 3. The Second Vision: Passus V–VII64
Introduction65
Ecclesiastical satire67
Theological themes: the reward of works— a wage or a gift?77
Conclusion—the crisis of justice86
Chapter 4. The Third Vision: Passus VIII–XII90
Introduction92
Structure as determined by psychology94
Style105
Theme107
The inner-dream (XI. 5—402): Fortune, Lewtee, Scripture, Trajan114
Imaginatif129
Conclusion131
Chapter 5. The Fourth Vision: Passus XIII–XIV133
Introduction134
Educational transitions135
Poetic transitions143
Social transitions152
Conclusion156
Chapter 6. The Vision: Passus XV–XVII157
Introduction159
Anima— The whole soul161
Anima and the Church164
Anima and charity171
Conclusion188
Chapter 7. Visions Six, Seven and Eight: Passus XVIII–XX189
Introduction191
The sixth vision: Passus XVIII193
The seventh vision: Passus XIX200
The eighth vision: Passus XX212
Conclusion223
Notes230
Bibliography241
Index254