Title Background

Towards a Vernacular Ecclesiology: Revising the <i>Mirour de l’Omme</i> <i>Vox Clamantis</i>, <i>Vox Clamantis</i>, and <i>Piers Plowman</i> During the Western Schism

Towards a Vernacular Ecclesiology: Revising the Mirour de l’Omme Vox Clamantis, Vox Clamantis, and Piers Plowman During the Western Schism

This article triangulates John Gower’s revisions to the Mirour de l’Omme/i> and Vox Clamantis, L’s revisions to PPl, and English representations of the early years of the Western Schism (1378-1414). In the Mirour, Gower appended a brief allusion to the Schism at the end of his discussion of the papacy. Likewise, changing ecclesiological landscape forced Gower to rework beginning of book 3 and, to a lesser extent, the end of book 4 of the Vox twice. The first part of this article argues that we can date the references to the Schism in the Mirour and the Vox, and thus Gower’s revisions to those poems, to specific moments between the outbreak of the crisis in Rome in the summer of 1378 and the aftermath of Bishop Henry Despenser’s Flemish Crusade (c. 1382/3). The second half of the article situates Gower’s revisions to the Mirour and the Vox in relation to L’s potential references to the Schism in the B and C texts of PPl, especially the last two passus (B.19-20/C.21-22). Unlike Gower, L does not make clear, datable, references to the Schism. Nevertheless, his depiction of the papacy in the B and C texts resonates with Gower’s account of the papacy during the Schism as well as a much broader cultural discourse regarding the basic shape, history, and possible future of the Roman church. Recovering Gower’s and L’s representations of the Schism not only brings these two contemporary poets into direct dialogue, but it also illuminates an undertheorized set of religious, political, and imaginative discourses centred on the institutional nature and shape of the Church. This article concludes by suggesting that scholars understand these discourses as a loose but recognizable “vernacular ecclesiology” common to both the poetic works of L and Gower as well as much broader spectrum of later medieval literature. (ZES)