The Women Readers in Langland’s Earliest Audience: Some Codicological Evidence.
Few studies on the readership of PPl have dealt with the evidence of female readership that the manuscripts provide. The author surmises that this is because PPl does not fall into the category of religious material generally associated with a female audience, mostly works of affective piety, or those texts written for women authors like Rolle or Aelred. PPl, however, “brought . . . a new kind of politically and ecclesiastically controversial reading” within the female ambit (122). One can identify six manuscripts that contain women’s signatures or the names of women owners or readers: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 145; Cambridge University Library, MS Dd.1.17; Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 669/646; Liverpool University, MS Chaderton F.4.8; Eaton Hall, Duke of Westminster’s MS; and San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 128. An additional manuscript possibly recording such identities is the Vernon MS (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Poet.a.1). The rest of the paper and the appendices provide codicological details, leading to these questions: to what extent might PPl have benefited from the more adventurous collecting and copying practices of nunneries? might L have conceived of a mixed audience for his poem? and, perhaps, most “audacious,” might PPl have been brought into existence by “women’s thirst for [vernacular] devotional material” (125)?
Learning and Literacy in Medieval England and Abroad. Ed. Sarah Rees Jones. Introd. Derek Pearsall. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2003. 121–34.