Patient Reading / Reading Patience: Oxford Essays on Medieval English Literature
This volume combines a variety of studies, some reprinted, some new; all are devoted to the literate culture of the English later Middle Ages. The studies hover about four foci: normative English polylingualism (across three grammatically distinct languages); the messiness and discontinuities of medieval manuscript production; drawing conclusions about historical audiences and literary communities on the basis of book-evidence; and, finally, PPl. In general, although all the essays here arrive at broad conclusions, their point is other. The essays exemplify methods of study, the identification of problems, and the recognition of tools appropriate or helpful in addressing them. Perhaps particularly the volume gestures toward a range of skills appropriate for the task; these range from narrow observation of book-production techniques to bringing a local historical record to bear on an individual volume or group of them.
The final four-part essay, presented as a tribute to Anne Middleton, addresses the personification Patience in PPl. In his introduction, Hanna writes that this essay ‘engages […] the “legibility” of Piers Plowman. Unlike most approaches to Langland’s work, it argues that the poet strove to create a meaningful object dependent on the exercise of verbal craft. The poem constructs its own verbal sense, one that requires […] patient textual absorption. The essay addresses a variety of ways in which routine readings avoid or short-circuit such engagement and seeks to exemplify some basic alternative approaches to the poem’ (p. 8).