Title Background

<i>Public “Piers Plowman”: Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture</i>.

Public “Piers Plowman”: Modern Scholarship and Late Medieval English Culture.

Benson’s study is offered as a corrective to the two dominant strategies in PPl scholarship: the “personal,” which tends to read the poem an autobiographical exploration of religion and politics, and the “privileged,” which studies the poem’s engagement with contemporary abstruse learning. Benson’s book seeks instead “to explore the poem’s engagement with the common culture of late medieval England” (xii). The book is divided into two parts: “PPl and Modern Scholarship” and “PPl and the Public Culture of Late Medieval England,” each comprising three chapters. Of the six chapters, the following have been published previously: Chapter 1 as “The Langland Myth.” William Langland’s “Piers Plowman”: A Book of Essays. Ed. Kathleen M. Hewett-Smith. New York: Routledge, 2001. 83-99 (see no. 7, “Annual Bibliography 2001.” YLS 16 [2002]: 194); Chapter 2 as “Another Fine Manuscript Mess: Authors, Editors and Readers of Piers Plowman.” New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies: Essays from the 1998 Harvard Conference. Ed. Derek Pearsall. York: York Medieval Press, 2000. 15-28 (See no. 134, “Annual Bibliography 2000.” YLS 15 [2001]: 243-61.); Chapter 3 as “What then does Langland Mean? Authorial and Textual Voices in Piers Plowman.” YLS 15 (2001) 3-13 (see no. 8, “Annual Bibliography 2001.” YLS 16 [2002]: 194-95); Chapter 5 as “Piers Plowman and Parish Wall Paintings.” YLS 11 (1997): 1-38 (See “Annual Bibliography 1997,” YLS 12 [1998]: 225; no. 267.); and Chapter 6 as “Piers Plowman as Poetic Pillory: The Pillory and the Cross.” Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry: Essays in Honor of Derek Pearsall. Ed. David Aers. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000. 31-54 (See no. 133, “Annual Bibliography 2000.” YLS 15 [2001]: 243-61.). Chapter 4 in section 2 reads PPl alongside Mandeville’s Travels and the Book of Margery Kempe, since both of these prose texts, like L’s poem, deploy the Latinate materials of high medieval culture to address a wide readership and advance reformist ideas.

Rev. by:

  • Elliot Kendall, Times Literary Supplement, 5274 (4/30/2004): 30;
  • Donald C. Baker, English Language Notes, 42.3 (2005), 68–70;
  • Mishtooni Bose, YLS, 19 (2005), 207–11;
  • Andrew Galloway, Choice, 41 (2004), 2042;
  • Russell A. Peck, Speculum, 80 (2005), 831–32;
  • A. V. C. Schmidt, Review of English Studies, 56 (2005), 662–63;
  • Emily Steiner, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 27 (2005), 291–94;
  • Greg Walker, English Historical Review, 120 (2005), 513–14;
  • Lawrence Warner, Parergon, 22 (2005), 195–97;
  • Nicolette Zeeman, Medium Ævum, 75 (2006), 149-51