Contextualizing Alexander and Dindimus
Grady shows how the rarely studied Alexander and Dindimus, “a paradigmatic alliterative poem,” shares “some of the concerns of the Piers Plowman tradition” (82). The article begins with a detailed discussion of the poem’s unique manuscript: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264. Grady argues from the manuscript context that, contrary to what has generally been held, the inclusion of this poem in Bodley 264 should not be held as the happenstance or speculative activity of a single scribe, but rather regarded as indicative or the “desire to make Bodley 264 . . . resemble the numerous Latin manuscripts . . . that typically contained a romance history of Alexander” (87). The textual environment of Bodley 264 locates Alexander and Dindimus at the “overlap between monastic and aristocratic literary tastes,” thus inviting a consideration of this poem’s place in the alliterative tradition (87). Along with PPl and other alliterative poems of the tradition, Alexander is concerned with the tensions and disruptions that are inherent in the exercise of secular power, and it shares with PPl a concern for debate, including one on the topic of Alexander as a virtuous pagan. Additionally, Alexander’s desire to “discover ‘þe best lorus of life and lawus of wise’ [l. 224],” is most productively understood “in the context of (and as the historical analogue of) the same kinds of inquiries that repeatedly give structure” to PPl (90). Grady argues, ultimately, that not only should we read Alexander within the PPl tradition, but also that it “was influenced by Piers Plowman, directly and substantially,” or, at the very least, that the surviving version of the poem was “revised under the penumbra of Piers” (91).
YLS 18 (2004): 81-106