Reception and its Discontents
An introduction to the topic of the volume, reception of the poem. PPl has always imposed questions of reception, since this is at the heart of the issue of the different versions and the order in which they were composed. Foundational essays by Burrow and Middleton have set the terms for considering the poem’s style, topics, and internal audience in terms of its contemporary audience and manuscript contexts. The reception history of PPl has been most thoroughly grounded in manuscript study, though codicology is not the governing approach of many of the essays on reception history presented in this volume. Since the controversy characteristic of the poem’s scholarship imposes a degree of self-consciousness about any position, the ‘discontents’ of reception theory are not to be avoided.