Thanne artow inparfit: Learning to Read in Piers Plowman
On the question of learning via reading, L ‘takes an Augustinian position […] by incorporating error and ambiguity of text and interpretation into his method of instruction’ (p. 170). L encourages PPl‘s readers to resolve Will’s interpretative errors, and in this process to examine ‘the text of their own experience’ as an aspect of personal religious devotion (pp. 170-71). The relations between the poem’s readers and Will the reader mimic the hermeneutic glossing of complicated texts. Readers of PPl produce their own glosses, which L himself is powerless to control. Batkie argues moreover that the devotional value of the poem lies in its ‘hermeneutic and discursive difficulty’, which demands readers who struggle to acquire understanding of the divine (p. 172). L creates the readers he wants. The essay analyses in detail Will’s encounter with Anima (B.15) and the episode of St. Thomas (B.19), through which L prompts the reader to sympathize with Will’s desire for substantial knowledge.
Chaucer Review, 45 (2010), 165-93.
Batkie, Stephanie L.