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Response to J. A. Burrow’s “Gestures and Looks in <i>Piers Plowman</i>“

Response to J. A. Burrow’s “Gestures and Looks in Piers Plowman

Revises Burrow’s account of the significance of Will’s scowling at the friar in B.11.84-85. Burrow interprets Will’s “speaking-look” as, “Will is right but must not get carried away” in insulting the friar but equally plausible is “nudge, nudge, we know the Friar’s a jerk, but let’s watch ourselves here.” That alternative reading, however, could be challenged, since it rests on the assumption that Lewte’s stern look means to check Will’s critique of the friar. Lewte’s hard look, actually, seems “positively contradictory,” a slippery sign unbecoming to those “who speak and communicate truth.” In fact, L in the C text eliminates Lewte’s look altogether (C.22.23-26)-to the effect, “no more of this ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ stuff.” This response to Burrow then moves to look at B.18 and B.19, attending specifically to the ceremonious gestures within liturgical and visionary frameworks and the ways in which Will at points stands apart from liturgical celebration, and the concomitant ceremonious gestures of kneeling and singing, in the waking setting of B.19. Only when Will dreams does he join the liturgy.