Reading Piers Plowman in the Fifteenth and the Twenty-First Centuries: Notes on Manuscripts F and W in the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive.
This is a review article of the first two volumes of the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive (see item 17, “Annual Bibliography 2000,” YLS 15 : 14-15). Galloway explains that the PPl Electronic Archive will uniquely facilitate further textual research on the poem, since its valuable search, sift, and display capabilities make it the most valuable tool “for studying the fluid range and layered depth of late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century remakings of the poem” (232-33). The archive will particularly enable the archaeology of the layers of the text, enabling readers to search and parse and contextualize for themselves the authorial revisions, copying transformations, and stages of edition, thus establishing the centrality of the reading process. This review article comments on several approaches to studying the new textual and literary evidence now open to scholars along with commentary on aspects such as the user interface, the level of technological expertise needed, and so forth. Galloway concludes that the level of the demand placed upon its users “is itself novel, but also a way to approach most closely the labors and pleasures of late medieval readers, who were themselves facing unprecedented interactions and configurations of the forms of social and cultural power” (252).