Synopses & Reviews
William Langland's chief work, Piers Plowman, is regarded as the greatest Middle English poem prior to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Both a social satire and a vision of simple Christian life, it has much to contribute to contemporary debates over such issues as gender, dissent, representation, and popular religion and culture, and it has recently enjoyed renewed critical attention. This volume tackles some of the central questions within Piers Plowman studies. Its essays, ranging from source study to critical historicism and queer theory, demonstrate the variety of critical tools presently brought to bear upon medieval texts, but they also share a common interest in social context and meaning. What all of the contributors insist upon is the need for a fundamental reconfiguring of our most basic understandings of Piers Plowman -- of its author and audience; the order of its texts; the power of its poetry; its understanding of women, of the poor, of allegory, of history itself; and its relation to fourteenth-century culture and ideology.