Can You Serve? The Theology of Service from Langland to Luther
In setting the apologia of PPl in passus 5 of the C text alongside Martin Luther’s 1525 text De servo arbitrio and his earlier lectures on the Psalms, this essay moves across the Reformation divide to argue for continuities between these writers’ treatments of the theological grammar of ‘serve and deserve’. The article argues that when L has his narrator questioned by Reason and asked, ‘Can you serve?’ L understands the question, like Luther, in the broadest theological and ethical sense. The article attends in detail to conventional readings that see the apologia as referring to L’s putative clerical status, to his status as a labouring body under the terms of the 1388 labour statutes, or to his own vocation as a poet and maker of vernacular theology. Establishing significant parallels between L and Luther allows the picture of the ‘Lutheran moment’ painted by recent literary historians to be questioned and challenged. (JK; adopted from the journal’s abstract)
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 40 (2010), 527-57.