From Covenantal Symbol to Institutional Sign: The C Revisions in Passus 16 of Piers Plowman‘ ,
Juxtaposing a passage from Patience’s sermon against the comparable passage from the C text, the essay contends that L’s revisions to Patience’s sermon both court and challenge the semiotics of late medieval penitential discourse. Patience’s revised sermon centering on the ‘chartre’ draws upon the theological and canonistic conception of penance as a semiotic process of mediation between the penitent’s inner contrition and divine remission. At the same time, Patience’s manner of expounding the ‘chartre’ challenges such a conception by presenting the penitential process as more temporal than semiotic, as more processual than terminal. Undergirding both parts of the essay lies the contention that in the C revisions L converts the semiotic register of the canon law into a temporal one in order to present the ‘chartre’ as holding out less certainty about salvation than does the ‘patente’. This essay refines our knowledge of both the penitential tradition that certain understudied C revisions to the B text of PPl foreground, and the allegorical language chosen to effect that engagement. (AT, from the journal’s abstract)
Exemplaria, 23 (2011), 147-70.