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Glossing <i>Piers Plowman</i>: The New Penn Commentaries

Glossing Piers Plowman: The New Penn Commentaries

This review essay of Galloway’s and Barney’s Penn Commentary volumes (see ‘Annual Bibliography, 2006’, YLS, 21 [2007], items 3 and 9) takes issue with the keying of the series to the C rather than the B text, a choice perhaps explained by the fact that three of the five contributors to the series were students of Donaldson. Adams praises Galloway’s sensitive treatment of the influence of the Roman de la Rose (NB pace Adams’s claim to the contrary, there is an entry in the index for this item, s.v. ‘de Lorris, Guillaume, and Jean de Meun’) and discussion of Meed, and Barney’s masterful analysis of the Four Daughters of God episode. Yet volume 1 is marred by some errors of fact; volume 5, by momentary errors of judgement. The volumes run the risk of ‘unconsciously diminishing the contributions of earlier scholars who were not one’s own mentors and enhancing the contributions of those who were’ (p. 77). Thus Barney follows Bloomfield’s refusal to believe that L actually believed in the imminent Apocalypse, and takes the poem as having an optimistic view of the possibility of the friars’ redemption. Yet ‘whatever their incidental blemishes, this pair of commentaries will remain for decades an essential tool for anyone working with PPl‘ (p. 81).