Prophetic Piers Plowman: New Sixteenth-Century Excerpts
In recent decades, a slew of textual discoveries has prompted a reconsideration of the sixteenth-century transmission and reception of PPl. Research on this topic began in 1989 with Sharon Jansen’s discovery of PPl excerpts in London, British Library, Sloane 2578 (mid-sixteenth century) and has accelerated in recent years, refocusing questions of literary history, textual tradition, and the genres of PPl. A key conclusion of this new scholarship is that L’s poem circulated as political prophecy in manuscript and print in the sixteenth century. This article registers a new entry in the sixteenth-century archive of Langlandiana: two freestanding excerpts, each combining the same two passages from PPl B, in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson C.813 (mid-sixteenth century). The Rawlinson PPl excerpts, Weiskott argues, add incrementally to the case for a prophetic PPl in the sixteenth century and also indicate a richer codicological, generic, and metrical context for this period in the poem’s reception history. Weiskott begins by providing diplomatic texts of the excerpts and placing them in the context of Rawlinson C.813, the genre of political prophecy, and the alliterative tradition. He then argues through comparison and close reading that the prophetic PPl of the sixteenth century points up an underappreciated aspect of L’s poetic practice.