Langland’s Empty Verbs: Service Kenosis, Kenosis, and Adventurous Christology in Piers Plowman
This essay argues that PPl line C.20.231 (‘And aftur, god auntred hymsulue and toek Adames kynde’) can be read as taking part in a late medieval conversation about how to talk about kenosis in English, and about the competing models of Christian selfhood, polity, and social relations that the choices of particular words entailed. L’s line is simultaneously an oblique translation of Phil. 2.7 (‘and emptied himself, taking the form of a servant’), and an occlusion of the controversial word (anientisen) normally used to translate the kenosis verb in English. In this reading, the figure of Piers the Plowman, as servant of Truth, represents the metaphorics of Christian service, embodying a kenotic critique of the ‘serve and deserve’ model of grace and merit.