Title Background

The Imperative of Revision in the C Version of <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

The Imperative of Revision in the C Version of Piers Plowman.

Considers the revision of C.9 (A.8; B.7) in light of two assumptions: (1) that the poet revised against a B text which, although superior to that reflected in the tradition of the extant B manuscripts, was nonetheless a scribally produced manuscript with a substantial body of error; (2) that such revision was sporadic and uneven. Notes particular cases where it is impossible to distinguish with certainty between restoration of damaged readings through revision and the preservation of authentic readings lost or damaged in the archetypal B tradition. Moreover, corrupt readings in B that also appear in C may have been not transmitted but generated anew by the poet. Readings judged original that offer AC identity over a B variation are to be accepted as authentic, however they come to reappear in C; but the poet was under no obligation to be satisfied in restoring an A reading. To the extent that generalizations are possible regarding C.9, the poet seems more concerned with the urgent task of reshaping the pardon scene than with leisurely, minute reworking of individual lines. The impression is strengthened that a single mind and sensibility produced all three forms of the poem; but also that the C text as we know it does not fully represent a finished revision.