Piers Plowman‘s William Langland: Editing the Text Writing the Author’s Life, Writing the Author’s Life
Editors and scholars have conceived WL’s biography as a discursive assumption that rationalizes their various approaches to editing and analyzing the poem. Moreover, Skeat’s hypothesis of the order of the three versions rests on largely unexamined Darwinian notions of more complex growth over time. Six categories of evidence support the hypothesis that the A text was the last in the series: (1) A manuscripts as a group are later than C and B manuscripts, later even than what might be expected of a “first edition”; (2) six A manuscripts include a rubric to A.9 that calls attention to Dobet and Dobest, which are treated only in B and C; (3) six A manuscripts “complete” their text of A with the C text, as if they recognized that C was the form chronologically closer to A; (4) there is a surprising agreement of AC against B; (5) John But (A.12.103-04) reports that Will died while working on A; (6) But also refers to two other works written by Will about Piers Plowman (A.12.101-02), putatively B and C.
YLS 9 (1995): 65-90.
Bowers, John M.