Title Background

<i>Sanctifying Signs: Making Christian Tradition in Late Medieval England</i>.

Sanctifying Signs: Making Christian Tradition in Late Medieval England.

This “study of Christianity in late medieval England” (vii) contains two chapters devoted to L. Chapter 2, “The Sacrament of the Altar in PPl,” is a revised and republished version of “The Sacrament of the Altar in Piers Plowman and the Late Medieval Church in England.” Images, Idolatory and Iconoclasm in Late Medieval England. Eds. Jeremy Dimmick, James Simpon, and Nicolette Zeeman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 63-80. (See no. 3, “Annual Bibliography 2002.” YLS 17 [2003]: 226-27; item 1416.)
The chapter “The Sign of Poverty” canvasses L’s theology of poverty and seeks to trace the development of this theology in the poem’s dialectical process of exploration, whereby certain strands of thinking on poverty are posed and then superseded, such as Recklessness’s and Patience’s, both of which have distinct Franciscan inflections. Such supersession shows that L is entertaining Franciscan versions of poverty but that, in the end, he does not value them as a “sanctifying sign of poverty” nor as models of perfection “in which the theological virtue of charity most flourishes” (115). Other major episodes in the poem that instance a similar bracketing of Franciscan models of poverty are the apologia in C.5 (Will’s encounter with Reason and Conscience), the “lunatyk lollares” of C.9, and Need’s speech, an “attempt to reconstitute a Franciscan version of the sign of poverty” (150). Throughout, the chapter considers the meaning of “fyndynge” as it relates to Will’s spiritual labors in C.5, Actif’s work for the community, Patience’s unwarranted rejection of Actif’s labors, and, finally, the provisions given to friars at the end of the poem with the explicit purpose of showing that the “Church’s fyndynge will deliver all friars, including radical Franciscans, from their identification with the sign of poverty which the poem has so carefully composed, explored, and superseded” (156).
The book’s final chapter on “home” ends with a brief discussion of PPl.

Reviewed by:

  • Alcuin Blamires, Modern Language Review 101 (2006), 1085-86;
  • Richard K. Emmerson, Catholic Historical Review, 91, (2005), 155-57;
  • John C. Hirsh, Medium Aevum, 74 (2005), 343-44.  
  • J. Stephen Russell, Christianity & Literature, 56 (2007), 365–67.
  • James Simpson, YLS, 24 (2010), 205-09.
  • Claire Waters, Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures, 37 (2011), 167-72.