Langland’s Ghost in Teju Cole’s Open City
An interview with the author Teju Cole about his novel Open City and, in particular, the novel’s extended engagement with PPl. Open City makes direct reference to PPl: the protagonist, Julius, visits his former university tutor Professor Saito, a scholar of Middle English known for his translation of the poem; later, Julius falls asleep after reading the prologue. PPl also has a profound influence on the form of the novel, as O’Neill explains in her introduction: ‘Both works feature a ruminative, peripatetic narrator whose identity uncannily echoes that of its author. The novel also shares with the poem an insistent encyclopedism, simultaneously with a deep moral seriousness that refuses to see such erudition as sufficient to virtue. Perhaps the most striking similarity, though, is the fact in both texts that episodic form is enabled by a dream vision structure’ (p. 291). In the interview, Cole discusses his use of PPl in Open City, the moral seriousness of the poem and the novel, the dream vision form, and the work of memory and forgetting.
Yearbook of Langland Studies, 31 (2017), 287–300.