The Plot of Piers Plowman and the Contradictions of Feudalism.
WL adapted textual forms for theological reasons and at the same time reflected the limitations of his own historical position. Conservative critics, stressing the traditional ethical or theological background of the poem, or viewing it as a text transparent to political or economic conditions, emphasize unity and consistency at the expense of an understanding of the disparities and discontinuities within the text. WL himself apparently belonged to the landowning class, and the poem largely reproduces the social relations of feudalism and serves the interests of the ruling class; for all of his sympathy for the poor, WL never inquires into the political and economic conditions for the existence of involuntary poverty. Yet Piers represents WL’s attempt to overcome the opposition of external authority (which, as in WW, aims to neutralize contending inferiors) and something interior to consciousness; significantly, Piers, on the side of the landlords in resisting the mobile laborers in B.6 is at the same time a peasant employer of labor and thus on the side of those who oppose the labor statutes.
Speaking Two Languages.- Traditional Disciplines and Contemporary Theory in Medieval Studies, ed. Allen J. Frantzen. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991. 91-114, 242-53.
Harwood, Britton J.