Title Background

Authorial vs. Scribal Writing in <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

Authorial vs. Scribal Writing in Piers Plowman.

Both Kane (A text) and K-D (B text) reject recension as a practicable means of editing PPl in favor of discrimination between variants to determine which might most likely give rise to others through scribal error. K-D believe that by the time of the B text WL wrote according to a strict though eccentric alliterative pattern, which they use as a criterion of emendation; they accept that the archetype of the extant B manuscripts was corrupt, and they emend on the basis of A and/or C text readings. Their assumption of only three original texts is challenged by manuscripts that cannot easily be assimilated into the ABC model, as well as by the multiplicity and diversity of variational readings. K-D assume WL’s writing was of consistently high quality and that he revised in a logical and consecutive way, never returning to an A reading for his C text. Kane assumes WL would have been responsible for only one (at most) variant in any textual crux, and that of any two main variants the one supported by the majority is authorial. MSS. RF of the B tradition show omission of large portions of the text, yet such omissions do not result in narrative disruption, and F contains more than 100 original and unique readings. Often K-D dismiss the archetypal B reading and revert to that of Kane’s A text, yet Kane arrived at his A reading through a methodology that K-D later rejected, i.e., taking into account only A manuscript readings. Comparison of Kane’s A text and K-D for Prol. -B. 7 indicates that many rejected variants, particularly in the apparently genetic group EAMH_, reappear as B readings.


Machan, Medieval Literature: Texts and Interpretation 59-89.

Cross Reference



Brewer, Charlotte.