Reading Piers Plowman.
A text is defined as “an extended description / representation of a situation or set of situations by an individual in terms of the conceptual resources afforded by his language (langue), using its system of signs.” Because a text is an event in time, the personality of its author is its most individuatng factor; and its character as a record of the author’s confrontation with experience implies an intention of communication-in PPl unmistakably to communicate a heightened sense of anxiety through the alternation of crises of intense concern with movements of doctrinal orientation. A main reason for reading PPl is thus the author of the text, implied as the controlling personality expressed directly or obliquely in the variety of the poem’s voices and its powers of engagement. We should read the poem with primary regard to its speaking voice, from which it appears “a highly charged communication to contemporaries” which subsumes stylistic, generic, and conceptual (e.g., religious and socio-historical) features.
YLS 8 (1994): 1-20.