Response: Not Peter or Perkyn but Piers, but Piers
This essay is a response to the forum on ‘Langland and the French Tradition’, edited by R. D. Perry and Elizaveta Strakhov. The use of French in PPl shows a predictable orientation toward social relations, ethics, religion, law, and rhetoric, signalling politeness, pretension, and hypocrisy. But L’s use of French materials is not always easily explicable — surprisingly, for example, the name Piers seems in late medieval England to be rather rare. The essays in this strand devoted to L’s ‘French tradition’ suggest some fascinating possible textual connections for PPl, but also illustrate the poet’s ruthless manipulation — and often occlusion — of anything approaching a source. Nevertheless, insofar as the poem does invoke other texts and traditions, this invariably turns out to raise questions with larger social, institutional, discursive, and generic implications.