Response to Steiner’s “Langland’s Documents”
Advocates a refined understanding of the relations between vernacular poetry and prose and Latin textuality and legal formulaicism; and poses three questions to Steiner. 1.) In so far as marriage litigation was primarily a matter for ecclesiastical courts, why does L place the marriage dispute (and Theology’s objections to the marriage charter itself) at Westminster? L might be “contesting the judicial arm of the very ecclesiastical institution that provided him with the exegetical models he seems to have adapted for Mede’s marriage charter.” 2.) Is there in Steiner’s paper a new reading of the significance of the tearing of the pardon scene? Perhaps so, for there is “the distinct possibility that the tearing of the pardon could have been seen by Langland during revision as violence done to his own physical document, a disruption of his ‘coherent’ (Steiner’s adjective) progression of documents in the support of a sotierological narrative.” 3) To describe PPl, Steiner uses the terms “archive” and “cartulary” synonymously, but their distinction, codicologically speaking, is worth speculating about. “If the poem is an archive, it is a collection of numerous official documents and other writings that can be read in any order and at any time a reader wishes. But if Piers Plowman is a cartulary, then of course it is a single document, a register in which other, original documents have been copied for safe- keeping and subsequent perusal.” Perhaps the experience of reading PPl is rather like that of reading a cartulary.
YLS 14 (2000): 110-13.