Plowing through the Fair Field: Teaching Piers Plowman.
Although L is one of the three most important Ricardian writers, he is the least taught. In this article Ruud suggests ways to teach L in a British Literature I survey, or an undergraduate medieval literature course. He recommends using Donaldson’s translation of the B text. Some possible approaches he suggests include contrasting L’s Prologue with the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales as a way to discuss Estates Satire. He also suggests comparing the Confession of the Seven Deadly Sins in passus 5 to the portraits in Chaucer’s Prologue and consider whether in fact Chaucer is creating ‘characters’ in any modern sense. Another suggestion is augmenting a reading of the Pardoner’s Tale with the picture of ‘tavern sins’ in Glutton’s confession in passus 5. Further, this comparison might lead into a discussion of the whole concept of confession in the fourteenth century, and the ‘confession’ that the Pardoner makes in his Prologue. Less obvious suggestions follow: considering the theme of the ‘other’ in medieval literature, one could compare L’s attitudes toward the salvation of the heathen with, for example, Julian of Norwich. Finally, Ruud’s experience shows the most successful part of PPl in the classroom is passus 18. Considering this passus in a survey course, one can show how, while Chaucer includes a wide variety of narratives among his Canterbury Tales, L includes a wide variety of literary discourses in his text, specifically, in passus 18, Romance discourse, fabliau discourse, morality play discourse. These kinds of comparisons are especially valuable for students in helping them to make sense out of PPl by putting it into a context.
Proceedings of the Fifth Dakotas/Nebraska Conference on Earlier British Literature . Ed. Philip J. Hanse. Jamestown, ND: Jamestown College, 1997. 47-56.