What Makes Piers Plowman So Hard to Read?
The difficulties in understanding PPl derive from a multiplicity of interconnections on the level of surface structure that dislocates the expected patterning of given/new information and de-stabilizes the reader’s ability to predict upcoming text. The poem does not depend on either episodic or semantic structures of meaning; instead, ideas are connected by strange associations and the suggestions of the words that WL happens to use. Medieval realist assumptions guiding literary culture, in which language was considered sacramentally as an outward manifestation of inward meaning, may have enabled the original audience to respond sensitively to the concatenations of surface structure.
Style 23 (1989): 32-48.
Chamberlin, John S.